Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Advanced Learning - It's Time for Change

Do you hear that Superintendent Banda and members of the School Board? 

Enough well-meaning talk.  I myself have been through this now, with two children, and I truly despair (and that's the right word) that this district will ever get it right.  What's most distressing is that there has been a lot of talk and hand-wringing and paper shuffling and yet, the program is confusing, uneven and frankly, something of a joke.

First, the director of the program, Bob Vaughan, has got to go.  

I rarely advocate for anyone to go but honestly, this has gotten to the point of being ridiculous.   He is not sustaining this program in any real way and consistently passes the buck or obfuscates over the stagnation of the program.  The program has made some progress but overall, does not well-serve the majority of students in it.

Let's start with the Curriculum & Instruction meeting yesterday where, ostensibly, they were discussing Policy 2190 which outlines what Advance Learning is in our district.  Or rather, the vision. Because the new wordsmithing of the policy takes out program placement and other issues. 

Why say something specific when you can say something grand?

Charlie and I, both members of the AL Taskforce and both people Bob Vaughan knows, were present. 

Sharon Peaslee asked, "What was the outcome of the Taskforce?" 

There was a pause.  Dr. Vaughan said they "concluded the work on the Taskforce" but said that the work was not about policy but other issues. 

That, my friends, is not true.  At our last meeting of the AL Taskforce, we were asked, by Dr. Vaughan, if any of us wanted to continue on in the next schoolyear.  The majority of people said yes and I'd bet that is because so little got done because of the absolute dysfunction of the organization of our work. 

And yet, he told the Board members on the Committee that our work was done.

He also said the Taskforce charge didn't include policy.  Actually, I have it in front of me and it does.  It stated, "The Advanced Learning Programs Task Force is charged with making recommendations to Senior Leadership and FACMAC in the following areas:
  • Consistency of program structure and delivery from site to site
  • Capacity to serve all students found eligible in all elementary and secondary attendance areas
  • Program placement to meet growing enrollment and continuity for families
  • Educator supports for staffing, professional development, textual materials, etc.
  • Improve representation of our diverse students in our advanced learning programs
  • Clear communications to students, families, educators and the community about issues outlines above.
Recommendations should consider implications that are common and unique to APP, Spectrum and ALO in the areas outlined above.  

And FYI, one of the deliverables?  "Updated definitions and guiding principles of advanced learning programs" Sounds like policy to me.

Then, he continued (and really, he should have stopped) and said that the work was started by Superintendent Enfield under Noel Treat and Cathy Thompson who are all now gone.  And, that it is up to Superintendent Banda what to do next.  "We're waiting for him."

Really?  And that is why he has ignored e-mail after e-mail from me from the start of the school year on (and likely other members of the Taskforce) asking, "Hey, when do we start again?"  He has not had the courtesy to answer or even acknowledge that HE asked us to stay on.

Sorry but we don't have a restart on every single committee because the superintendent changes.  That is wrong.   I will have absolutely NO problem going to the Superintendent with this issue.

At this point, I raised my hand and almost said something.  Not supposed to but you see, as there were two members of the Taskforce there, we might have be able to add to the conversation.  Dr. Vaughan did not acknowledge us once.

He went on and on about the "extensive" survey that was taken of AL parents and how great the participation and feedback was.  (And what actions came out of it?)

Director DeBell kind of tiptoed around this topic but did come out and say some very valid things.  What was interesting is that he told McLaren and Peaslee that "typically" policies are drafted in committee, "rolled out to the public" and then sent for final markup and then for a Board vote.  When was the last time any Board committee asked for public input on a policy?

Dr. Vaughan was quite careful to say they were following the state WAC and it makes me wonder if I need to read it again.  He said the "evidence", according to MAP, is that all three tiers of AL are working.  Charlie and I exchanged a glance because we're fairly sure they do not track ALOs in any real way.  I have never seen any documentation on ALOs.

Good news, though.  It was reported that the State Auditor is doing a regular audit of the AL program.  

DeBell continued on saying that "his impression" is that APP is high performance, Spectrum is a mixed bag and ALO performance is unclear.   Dr. Vaughan continued on to say that no, the overall achievement is good.  DeBell said that they needed to disaggregate the programs to see how they are succeeding especially at the school level.  Vaughan then went off on some tangent about where the students are located that are in the program.

Then we got some input from Deputy Superintendent Tolley.  He said that they need to give teachers PD around gifted students but haven't been able to.  (And folks, there is really no way of knowing, in any AL program, which teachers have had PD and how much.  My impression is that most APP teachers have and that many teachers who interact with AL students do their own PD.)  Tolley said they don't know if they can shift funds around in the budget to accommodate this effort.

So my first question I had in my notes -  
"What is the point of the program if teachers don't know how to meet the needs of these students?"

DeBell pressed on saying that some schools have differentiated math using Walk to Math to cover ALL students who can work one grade ahead.  Tolley demurred saying that students have to be working one grade ahead to participate.  My impression from that was is that only students tested to be working one grade ahead should be in Walk to Math versus what the teacher says a student should do.  (So we'd rather believe a test score over a teacher's judgment?)

Tolley also mentioned that need principal training in order to coach the teachers.  There's more PD that hasn't been done or provided for.

DeBell spoke up and I thought this was pretty brave (but it went nowhere).  He said "not all principals are on the same page with this.  That's what I see as inconsistent."  Crickets.  Of course that's true and we all know it.

My second question, as they went on, was following a statement the Vaughan made that seemingly missed the ears of the Directors.  It was that the AL's primary work, the majority of its work, is IDing students.  

This issue has really made me sad for a long time.  While I think it's important to find these kids - and Vaughan seems to think it is the be all and end all to his work - if there are not programs and people to support them, then these programs mean little except for window-dressing.  Sort of like a sop to appease parents.

Vaughan says there is evidence "we are doing well" but "what do we need to change to do better?"

Okay, I'll bite.

1) How about a program that you could explain in one page?
2) How about a program where parents know the program is the same no matter what school you enroll in?
3) How about since the program is a DISTRICT one that principals have to follow the district directives about what it looks like and operates like?
4) How about for any school without Spectrum, there HAS to be an ALO or a clear and definitive  explanation of how any student who wants/qualifies for more rigor has it made available to him/her?
5) How about a permanent home for the nomads of APP elementary and middle school? 

Something has to change.


Anonymous said...

Please do not judge the success of our school's ALO program by our MAP scores.

Our ALO program is a joke.
Our principal doesn't care.
Our MAP scores are high.
Differentiation = worksheets.
And there is NO WALK TO MATH. This should be required at ALO schools.

--Methinks you guess my school is in the NE

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa and Charlie.


Anonymous said...

Primary job is IDing students

I believe that is what the state money is earmarked to do, ID and ID only. I believe that money pays Bob's salary. Running a Spectrum school is the job of the principal under direction of the superintendent and board. Same with APP and ALO. AL doesn't order principals around or move kids to different schools.


Charlie Mas said...

When Dr. Vaughan explained the dissolution of the Advanced Learning Task Force it sounded to me like he was saying that the new superintendent didn't want to get recommendations from a task force appointed by the old superintendent.

Anonymous said...

if your goal is to keep the paychecks coming in, it sounds like Vaughan has done an outstanding job.

go along to get along, don't rock the boat, the squeaky wheel gets replaced, kick the can down the road ... from what I've skimmed about Vaughan over the years, I think I've just written his resume.

and by the time a new committee is formed and gets moving, Vaughan will have another year of his mortgage paid!


mirmac1 said...

The only time I say Vaughan get up and get moving was when AL funding was threatened in Olympia.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent, you are right about the state money. But the district has to think about what they are delivering and IDing kids is not enough.

Charlie, I did not read that statement on the superintendent that way. And, Banda has said nothing like that and knows that Vaughan has not followed through on this work.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with you about Dr. Vaughan. It is past time for him to go. Even if he's a nice guy, he's been completely ineffective. I worked with him for a year on the APP-AC. My impression is he is completely worthless - and is just focused on flying under the radar and not making waves. He is kept out of the loop down at the district office - several folks down there told me this. He's like a kindly, bumbling professor, but not in on any top discussions and has no real vision. He's a status quo guy, and sees nothing wrong with Advanced Learning. He likes to brag about individual achievements of APP kids, even though the school or program has had no part of them. (Like "the Lowell kids have won a math competition!" even though the Math Club was 100% volunteer run and all the kids were doing outside math, not the crap curriculum of the district. In fact, those same parents running it were fighting him on the math curriculum, begging for algebra in 6th which he was against. They learned all their great math AFTER school, but he was happy to take credit for it.) I am going to one of those director coffees and make a plea for a new head of Adv. Learning. Would love some support.

-Rare Commenter

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link to the 1993 article. A 1999 Seattle Times article has this quote from a school board candidate:

Harer, owner of a construction company, contends Seattle schools are failing to challenge students academically. "I believe the kids are capable of leaps and bounds more than what our schools demand of them," he says.

His complaints are based on the experiences of his daughters...In some classes, Harer said, teachers show videotapes unrelated to the curriculum...and assign "busywork" such as coloring in game boards in an honors social-studies class.


What's sad is that I could say the same thing today. It's not just AL that needs to change - the core curriculum of Seattle Schools needs an overhaul. From reading instruction to math to science - everything.

losing hope

David said...

I too very much would like to see new leadership in the Advanced Learning office. For too long, that office has been inefficient and ineffective. For whatever reason, that office is unwilling to improve the state of advanced learning in Seattle.

It is way past time for Bob Vaughan to be replaced. I realize Superintendent Banda has a lot on his plate, but this should be one of the things on his list.

Anonymous said...

I gave up on Bob Vaughn years ago. I asked how my profoundly gifted first grader could be served in APP, he had no interest all. Then later another of my kids turned out to be 2E, again, he had no interest. It seemed he just wanted to bask in the glow of programs that half served a few of the gifted students in the district & saw no mission at all to the rest of them. I would love to see more committed leadership in that role.

-I never bothered with his programs

Anonymous said...

On a related note, if one needs a response from Bob Vaughan and is not getting it, what's the appropriate course of action? Escalate request to Michael Tolley? Contact our region's ED? Other? I don't want to create trouble on this issue, but do need to be sure it's addressed in a timely fashion...

JSIS parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

JSIS, asking questions and then failing to get a clear/helpful response is "not creating trouble." I would write to Michael Tolley, not the Executive Director. To me, the ED would have little to do with whatever AL is doing.

Anonymous said...

Our northend school has a good Spectrum program, but it is of course heavily oversubscribed (around 25 kids were on the waitlist for my kid's grade). Same deal year after year. Clearly a self contained program is a blessing and a curse depending on whether your kid gets the golden ticket going in to First Grade.
North End Parent.

Anonymous said...

Thank You so much Melissa and Charlie.
To Rare Commenter: I agree with you a 100%. If you let us know when and where do you need a support, I (and maybe others also) will join you.
I personally believe that actually this IS Dr Vaughan's job: not to do anything substantial at the AL Office. He is like a gate keeper. He is there to act nice and talk a lot but that is it. That is why he is getting paid. Otherwise how would he be able to do nothing (only ID-ing students, sending out letters for invitation to the Johns Hopkins Talented Program, and blubbering for hours every time when you ask a simple question from him) for years???
HIMS mom

Anonymous said...

The Advanced Learning Blog


Mel Brooks said...

the Groupthink Blog Is more like it Olympia

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Melissa.

One correction: most of the professional development that teachers receive at least at APP @ Lincoln around advanced learning is paid for by the PTA. I don't believe the District offers/pays for *any* professional development on this topic. APP @ Lincoln has a ton of new(ish) teachers, and the PTA has had to raise money to pay for their training.

- APP Parent

Charlie Mas said...

First we need a Vision, then the Board can develop a policy, and the superintendent can write a procedure.

But the Vision has to come first, and we don't have one.

Anonymous said...

Professional development would be key for us. So many new teachers, and few with gifted training. I have a friend who teaches in another district (Shoreline) and was shocked that SPS didn't send even one APP representative to the national educator gifted conference in Denver last year. (http://www.nagc.org/2012convention.aspx) She said that EVERY district sends at least one, usually more teachers to get the latest on best practices, professional development, etc for gifted learning. We do need a vision, but we also need some hands-on training for our teachers who are sent in to deal with this unique population.

-PTA funds aren't enough. Someone needs to know where to get the training

LLS said...

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I have had the exact same thoughts. I no longer care about personalities or intentions. Our advanced learning policy was suspended in 2009 and we still have none. Nor even a driving vision. If this isn't grounds for dismissal, I don't know what is?

Is there a petition we can all sign?

Fed Up said...

Well said... here's another characterization of what we are experiencing...

"Some school systems seem to have reconciled their distaste for ability-based grouping with pressure to offer something in the way of gifted programming by limiting advanced academics to a tiny select group (often chosen based in part on subjective teacher recommendations and questionable definitions of giftedness). For everyone else, one size fits all.

Under these circumstances, parents of the many under-challenged kids often have no recourse other than to seek out the gifted label. Given the scarce spots for gifted kids, this often ends up pitting parent against parent."
See rest: http://oilf.blogspot.com/2012/07/dazzled-by-giftedness-or-desparate-for.html

CW said...

Gifted Ed is in huge flux nationwide. The issues run from pre-K testing to cluster grouping/self-contained, minority representation, 2E and others. It's really a work in progress and our district is trying different paths at the same time. The ALO issue for example. It started at Haye, I believe, in direct response to Lawton becoming Spectrum designated under principal Jacobs. They started walk to math at Haye to keep students from leaving for Lawton. For those who remember the self-contained brouhaha at Lawton, I believe they are now doing walk to math and reading for 5th grade And math walk tos for all grades. Self-contained is out, but, again this is second hand so Lawton parents please verify this, non-Spectrum kids are put in year ahead work by teacher I'D and parent request. They had/have a 1/2time "coach" from the district to help implement and advise staff. As an inclusion school, it was very important for staff to eliminate self-contained, and parents made it clear rigor was very important, hence the dust up previously. Dr Brulles was called in from Arizona to give authoritative argument for cluster grouping and from I have heard the compromise is working pretty well. Would love to hear from a parent there about how they see it.

Anonymous said...

Rigor for AL students has definitely been compromised at Lawton. Many families left for APP or other schools. Either right away or after the first year when the realities of this "cluster grouping" came to pass. There is 'cluster grouping" but not really via the guidelines set forth by Brulles and Weinbrenner - it seems more random grouping. Cluster grouping in name only.

Yes, there is walk to math in all (or most grades). Which is good and allows all kids capable of doing 1 year ahead math to do so. There is no walk to reading. That's done via differentiation in the class for the teachers who choose to/are able to do it. Basically, just pick a different just right book (which isn't really differentiation)

It's definitely an inferior program and delivery method for the AL kids. Lots of other reasons factored into making the change but keeping the AL students challenged doesn't appear to be one of them, or at least it was super low on the priority list.

And the movement to eliminate s-c wasn't as much motivated by inclusion, it was motivated by wanting to spread out the students with behavior issues (the minutes used some term, can't remember what it was, but a kinder, gentler description for students who need more attention for behavior issues). It's in many of the meeting minutes (all are online) and was said straight up by the staff/admin on the team that evaluated cluster grouping.. So the rigor for the AL kids was sacrificed.

A shame really.

-moved on

Anonymous said...

Labelled as Gifted as a Child -

As someone who got that label at an early age with well meaning parents pushing for it, I think I can speak for many experiences kids in this category have felt for a generation - which is not always positive or special. Sometimes it is weird, or misfit, or uncool. Educational psychologists teach us that kids are in the process of becoming adolescents and finding their identities in shifting groups and developing their "soft" social skills, and it's not the same as grown adults who have more experience and are then viewed "gifted" due to being say a Navy Seals or member of Mensa. Also, a question for Charlie et al - if we are going to advance a new Advanced Learning vision in the district, we need to be honest about money, and teacher pay as the bench is deepened or new optional training is provided to teachers. Should a teacher for gifted kids with 5 years of experience and this specialized training be paid more than a "regular" teacher with 20 years of experience? Should a gifted teacher at the elementary who is 35 years of age with 5 years of experience be paid more than the school's special ed certified teachers who are also working with special, but simply quite different, groups of kids?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Dr Brulles was called in from Arizona to give authoritative argument for cluster grouping and from I have heard the compromise is working pretty well."

CW, several parents have weighed in and are not happy. Sorry, but for the principal to haul Dr. Brulles out here to talk about her vision and how her district handles cluster grouping and then the principal decides, oh but I'll do it MY way? Nope.

Also, all this wandering in the wild - how do you do quality control? How do you know what works?

Labelled, I don't think a teacher who teaches gifted kids should get paid more but the district certainly owes it to the teacher and the student to give the teacher the training and tools to do the job.

Anonymous said...

Haven't been at Lawton for two years but have friends there. Fifth graders rotate throughout the day and have three teachers. Walk to math every grade , walk to writing in fifth and third, I think. Some fourth graders in the 4/5 split also walk to reading/writing and math.
I saw Brulles when she was here and she basically just added wright to the cluster grouping argument. Yes, it was never implemented as per her book, but the walk tos are better in my opinion. In class differentiation is hard. Hs rigor suffered? I remember AL was all over Lawton for awhile and promised to track the kids who did get self-contained for two years and see how it affected them and what happened when they blended for fifth grade. With MAP as well as MSP, there should be some good data and it would be interesting to see. Same at wedge wood, Lafayette, Whittier and View Ridge. If I were the board I would ask for a presentation using that data to get an idea of what works, not just for the AL kids but the rest of the kids who were or were not blended. The goal is obviously to serve all kids as well as possible and having followed the Lawton story, ther are many examples to look at nationwide. The more subtle issues regarding AL are how it motivates parents and students by creating a competitive environment to get in these programs and to get rigor for students who aren't in.

Not AL

Anonymous said...


I'm not sure what point you're trying to make about having been labelled 'gifted' not always being a positive thing.

One of the benefits for having a cohort of APP students is that it gives these kids a sense of belonging, of not the misfit or weird kid. So being identified and 'labelled' and able to join a cohort like this is positive in that sense.
I also don't think we are giving our kids a label that adversely affects their developing self identity as you seem to be implying. 'Gifted' in the educational context simply means meeting certain (widely accepted) thresholds in tests that measure achievement, aptitude, and in some cases, creativity. Meeting the criteria for entry into an APP type program really just implies the potential or capacity for exceptional academic growth or performance is there. Obviously it is not the same as being a gifted scientist or gifted artist or whatever as an adult (in which case the label is comes more from exceptional achievement in a certain field) and I don't think anyone thinks it is.

Nobody has ever suggested teachers of 'gifted' kids should get paid more - so I'm not sure where that idea came from either. It is tremendously controversial to suggest such a thing. I'm not sure if teachers who have additional credentials in certain areas are entitled to higher pay grade but if so, this would apply equally to credentials in any area (not just relating to gifted ed).


Anonymous said...

Out of 552 kids projected for Lowell at Lincoln next year, according to the budget posted on SPS website, 3 are FRL. That's right. Three.



Mind Boggled.

Anonymous said...

No other school, including in all of the NE, even comes close to the 3 out of 552 FRL number at Lowell at Lincoln.


Mind Boggled

Anonymous said...

Snappy again
Just wanted to add, thank you Melissa for raising this.
APP and spectrum have really suffered from the incredible absence of any vision or leadership in Advanced Learning. These are challenging times for the district and we need a strong leader in AL who can effectively manage the current growth and bring consistency and unity to an APP program that is now in several (and probably increasing) number of sites, develop and supervise consistent district-wide spectrum programs that all eligible neighborhood kids have access to, increase diversity all areas of AL by identifying and addressing reasons why some groups are underrepresented, and ensure access to AL opportunities is possible in all geographic areas in a tangible, quantifiable way (and not just in name only). And that is just the start of my job description for a new head of AL.
I kind of feel a bit bad, after all this is a persons livelihood we are talking about. But times are tough and our students have suffered enough - what else is going to happen if this leadership vacuum continues?


Anonymous said...

I know most who post about APP tend to be the parents of kids in elementary school. To say "our kids have suffered enough" is a big statement in a district with 45% FRL and struggles in every school. The APP cohort suffers no more, and I would even argue less, than any population in SPS. My kid is now a senior at Garfield, and the APP cohort is heading off to the finest colleges in the country, as they do every year, due to great grades in the most challenging classes, test scores, leadership positions, music participation and extracurriculars, all accessed through the APP program. They don't suffer, they excel, at Garfield. Perhaps you need to take a longer view and redefine suffering. These kids even had to go to Washington!

Mind Boggled

Charles said...

great point, boggled. I've heard it said that a lot of AL's intention is to reduce flight to private. Think how the district would look without APP. Half of those kids would leave for private, probably more, leaving the district even more overrepresented by poor, minority and special ed. It's an intricate balance with far-reaching consequences for the whole city. The other problem is people will go private if they can't get their kids the benefits of an AL program.This makes Vaughan's job very tricky and why he seems to take a no email answer policy. He's actually pretty good at making evreybody just miserable enough to feel injured, yet still deliver the goods as boggled stated. As long as AL parents keep complaining there very real benefits are more tolerable to the rest.

Anonymous said...

NO, AL is not just supposed to keep people from going to private school. It is because some first graders are reading the Hobbit and some of them can't read, and both of those groups deserve to be educated.

Sometimes on here I see a disturbing motif of wanting to punish the children of not poor enough parents, instead of just trying to give all the children opportunity. I have never been in a district that hates advanced learning so much. Right now, and even more with the new WSS, higher income schools get less staff, less money, less grants, less everything. And that's appropriate, as it should be. But the kids in higher income schools and APP still deserve a stable school, with teachers who can teach them things they don't already know. If they are unusual learners they deserve to have their teachers have heard about how to teach them. That is not asking for special treatment, but they don't have it now.

Definitely the APP income statistics need work, and that is one thing (one of the only things) Bob Vaughn works on- finding new ways to identify disadvantaged gifted learners. So far they don't all work that well, but it is what they are working on. I'm glad they are spending time on this difficult and important issue, but if they continue to neglect the program entirely while they do I'm not sure what kind of "prize" it is going to be.


Anonymous said...

@mind boggled
Agreed, I'm somewhat shortsighted and narrow in my perspective- this is what this particular blog post is about though, and it is something that affects my family personally. I certainly agree that there are areas of great need in the district, and other populations are not well served either.
However, just because many APP students tend to do quite well ultimately (as in the example you give) regardless of their school experiences does not mean they should be ignored. They are just as entitled to have their educational needs met as any other group. Perhaps you could look at it this way- the APP cohort does
pretty well not BECAUSE of the way they are treated by the district but rather DESPITE the way they are treated as a cohort.
APP does not get anything special; we have the same large class sizes, same teachers (hired from the same district pool, no special training etc), same aging building issues ( if we're lucky enough to have one), same issues with funding cuts etc that every school has. We have the essentially the same curriculum just a year or 2 ahead in some subjects, since the district had not developed any specific curriculum for us. Although it is a shame that the program does not identify or attract more FRL or minorities ( and something AL should address), the schools get proportionally less funding and fewer teachers and resource staff as a result. We are not getting more or better anything than many schools in the district. What about those language immersion programs with their mandated smaller classes and classroom assistants, specialized curricula, geographically exclusivity! Yes, APP is a somewhat more privileged, affluent, and educated population - and this probably accounts a lot for why these APP kids you describe are doing well at Garfield and going onto good colleges etc. The kids have the ability or potential to do well academicaly through luck/heriditary predisposition or whatever (that is why they were in the program) - the district/AL did not create or nurture them, it just identified them via testing. The families (not the District, not AL) are doing what they can to provide academic acceleration, tutoring arrange extracurriculars etc and more likely to have the time and means to do so.
So, ok, suffer was maybe too strong a word, but there seems to be very little support for our cohort from the district or wider community. However, I am still grateful that my kids have the opportunity to be in an APP program because they are not well served in their neighborhood schools.


Anonymous said...

When one of our children was in the APP program we were always just above the FRL threshhold. Just Saying.....to assume that all of the families are high-income earners is simply incorrect. APP was a fabulous program (back at Lowell) for our oldest.

Anonymous said...

A Year and A Quarter to go

Anonymous said...

Snippety, please check out Tuesday's Thread and Maureen's posting on WSS and budget. Your school budget is based on not just the number of students, but the make-up of its population. There is general ed money to cover every enrolled students. Then there is non general ed funds for FRL, ESL, and special ed students. The legislated funds come from the feds and the state. Also special ed students may require more space in a school depending on the type of services they need. That means space for PT/OT/speech pathology etc. Special ed funding is broken down by levels as some students require more services, thus more funding.

What that means is if you have a school of similar size to Lincoln, but with a larger ESL, FRL, and/or special ed populations, then that school's budget will be larger. There is no conspiracy. WSS is a formula. And each year, what comes out of Olympia determines our district's budget and affects WSS formula. This year we have the federal sequestration too. I suspect next school year's budget is not going to be pretty.


Anonymous said...

Right- as I said, that's appropriate. No professional development and an unstable program is not.


Anonymous said...

I hate to be picky, but it matters. School budget (or funding) is not based on number of "minorities" in a school. The non gen-ed funds are based on number of students with FRL (any race/ethnicity that meets FRL guideline), ESL (any student whose dominant language is not English and lack the proficiency and fluency in English to learn in school), and special ed designation. These fundings are legislated by state and federal laws and are supposed to be used for their mandated purpose.

suep. said...

@Mind Boggled - I don't follow your turn of phrase: "... all accessed through the APP program."

These kids and families ARE the APP program.

And I believe Snappy was referring specifically to how the APP kids have been treated by the Seattle School District - not by life in general. It's true that this group of kids have had their schools split apart and been evicted multiple times in just the past four years, and at one school, had their experienced teaching staff gutted by unethical principals (who were found guilty of serious misconduct), and a whole school full of them currently don't actually have a permanent building to be in.

Anonymous said...

I said income- so frl is that directly. Income. I think you are mixing me up with someone else. I never said minorities, especially not in marginally offensive scare quotes.


Did someone post in between us and get deleted?

dw said...

For everyone clamoring for Bob's head on a platter:

I agree that he has let many of us down. I agree that he has not done the best job he is capable of doing. I am still upset that APP (especially elementary) was split. I am especially disappointed that Spectrum is being dismantled on Bob's watch and nothing is being done about it.

However, I want to warn people to be careful what you wish for. A relatively neutral/benign element can be better than some alternatives. Bob may not step up to the plate and stick his neck out, but his predecessor was actively detrimental to advanced learning. Some of what's happened over the past few years started with her, and just hasn't been rectified. It's easy to forget, but when Bob (re)arrived in SPS, he was heralded by quite a few people as a godsend-savior.

So while there's plenty of blame to be laid, understand that it's easy for some of us who have been around for many years to imagine a worse scenario.

We must also remember that Advanced Learning in general was at odds with the SPS "top brass" (and others at JSCEE) during the MGJ era, and anyone sticking their neck out too far was going to get it cut off. I'm not sure that would have served the department and its clients very well. There is also a bias throughout most of the city (including many teachers and principals) against advanced learning programs, and that's a tricky balance to maintain.

That said, all things considered, I would not object to a change. There have just been too many disappointments and not enough "fight" for advanced learning within that department in recent years for my taste. It's sad.

Equality said...

Well said.. "the APP cohort does
pretty well not BECAUSE of the way they are treated by the district but rather DESPITE the way they are treated as a cohort." Every kid deserves a challenging education. I am an equal opportunist when it comes to highlighting deficiencies in SPS -- for AL or for any other group that is not being treated right.

Anonymous said...

3 out of 550? No statistician, but the 3 effectively equals zero. That is just crazy. They either need to recruit better at AL or get a better testing regimen. Something. That is a travesty.

dw said...

Mind Boggled said:Out of 552 kids projected for Lowell at Lincoln next year, according to the budget posted on SPS website, 3 are FRL. That's right. Three.


And your smarty-pants point is what? To perpetuate the myth that APP is full of rich families? I'm so sick of this. You don't deserve being called out any more than the hundreds of others before you, but let's have a little lesson in logic, common sense and reality, shall we?

Here are two statements:

1) A particular group of families contains a lot of very wealthy people.
2) A particular group of families contains very few poor people.

Show of hands: How many people think these mean the same thing? By the comments on this board and others over many years, most people think they are equivalent. Sigh.

Here's our general population, split into three sections:


P: poor
G: middle class
W: wealthy

A low FRL count at a given school means simply that there are not very many students from the leftmost part of that graph. IT HAS NOTHING AT ALL TO DO WITH THE 'W' PART!

The truth is that there are indeed few very poor families with students in APP, and it makes perfect sense: it takes time and effort (as well as care and diligence) to support highly capable kids, otherwise, like a seed dropped haphazardly on the ground, they will not blossom. If you're a single parent or otherwise struggling to make ends meet it's going to be very difficult to engage and enrich your children's lives to let them reach their maximum potential. There are a lot of reasons and issues, and it's all complex, messy and uncomfortable. But it's reality.

But once you're past a certain level, not living in poverty, how much of your kids' potential is achieved is more a matter of how much care and interest you take in your kids' lives. Some of this will depend on how you were brought up, some will depend on your own education, there are a lot of factors.

Once you're to the right of the 'P' section above, parental wealth is a lot less of a factor in whether a kid is found "academically highly gifted". Sure, more wealth is better than less, but after you get out of the lowest rungs, the differential is much, much less.

The point of this is that lack of FRL is NOT an indicator of a wealthy population, it is merely an indicator of the lack of a very poor population. Not the same thing at all! APP has very few families living in poverty, but the vast majority of APP families, just like most schools, are middle class.

dw said...

The "G: middle class"

was obviously supposed to be: "M: middle class"

Stu said...

My kid is now a senior at Garfield, and the APP cohort is heading off to the finest colleges in the country, as they do every year, due to great grades in the most challenging classes, test scores, leadership positions, music participation and extracurriculars, all accessed through the APP program. They don't suffer, they excel, at Garfield. Perhaps you need to take a longer view and redefine suffering. These kids even had to go to Washington!

Your child came through a unified APP cohort. He/she went to Lowell with ALL the other APP kids, "suffered" through Washington with ALL his/her APP friends together, and then moved on to Garfield. The program your child attended, the one that has the cohort "heading off to the finest colleges in the country," does not exist anymore.

We all define suffering in different ways. Our son is clothed, fed, loved, and given every opportunity we can afford, which isn't much but is a whole lot more than many others. But when I look at what the program was when he was in the one and only cohort back at Lowell, and what it's become, I feel he's suffered. The APP community is suffering because an effective and proven system was dismantled by people with no sense of history, little understanding of the needs of APP kids, and a cockeyed perception of fairness and privilege, all under the watch of a director whose primary talent seems to be keeping his head tucked into his shell.


Anonymous said...

I don't have the long historical view as some of you, so I may be wrong on this. But I thought APP splits happened because of its growth, growing out of its space, district wide transportation cost issue, and changes that came with NSAP? Where are you going to find a school that will fit all of the elementary APP students under one roof? Same with MS and HS? Hamilton MS underwent a major remodel and became quite desirable and that is where APP and International school went. Now it's full again with all the programs. Same situation with Lowell before the split to Lincoln. To be fair, if you were talking about the Lowell principal situation, all of Lowell was affected, not just the APP portion of the program. The district did not do well by APP or other AL programs. The same can be said of other schools and other programs such as SBOC and special ed. C & I issues remain a problem for all.

As to the anomaly of Lincoln having 3 FRL thus far. Yes it's a noticeable blip. But rather get defensive, I would admit APP population make-up probably does reflect certain envrionmental conditions and reality that make these kids successsful. And we should work so that more kids in and outside APP be successful. I think it doesn't help to speak of APP woes as if we bear more burdens. IMO, that sets us up for a race to nowhere. The success of APP has been in a large part due to its strong advocacy and unlike spectrum and ALO, harder to ignore when you have a very large sub-population within in a school.

PS, sorry for the confusion, snippety, was respnding to snappy's post @ 9:05 PM.

Anonymous said...


You said, "The APP community is suffering because an effective and proven system was dismantled by people with no sense of history,"

Well the program was effective for your kid but not for all advanced learners. Historically, APP was not effective for the profoundly gifted or the 2E kids, or those who were significantly advanced in only one area, or more than 2 grade levels advanced in those areas, or those gifted in areas other than the reading & math that were historically served.

I sympathize with your unhappiness that something that worked so well for you is being taken away. But please do not assume that historically this program was effective & proven for all significantly gifted kids. It wasn't. There has been improvement in serving some 2E kids and in adding 2 other subjects to the advanced curriculum in APP. Still not effectively serving lots of kids, evidently now including yours.

-Been watching it for 15 years

Melissa Westbrook said...

"He's actually pretty good at making evreybody just miserable enough to feel injured, yet still deliver the goods as boggled stated. As long as AL parents keep complaining there very real benefits are more tolerable to the rest."

This is why I love my readers. Very astute thinking.

I will gently point out that AL should be supportive and fight for ALL Advanced Learning programs. APP parents seem to focus very much on APP while Spectrum and ALO are clearly languishing much more.

Chris S. said...

What's the FRL at Thurgood Marshall APP? Geography * other known correlations, maybe 3 isn't too surprising? The N/S split was bound to decrease diversity, esp in the north.

Anonymous said...

I too think three is surprising and embarrassing.lok at neighborhoods like mag and qa.....they have numbers greater than three. This tells me that the people who make a choice to test and send kids to APP have a more stable home life, financially ok, and just maybe a bit smarter than need be. I do not think APP reflects the inate intelligence of a child, ok it does a bit. But to me it says a lot about stability, access to parents, security in the home situation. A small percentage of kids that I have seen in app might fit the true gifted word. Everyone else is smart enough and lucky enough to have been born into their situation.


Anonymous said...

The District reports FRL percentages by school, not by programs within schools. I am sure though that the AL office has Thurgood Marshall's APP FRL numbers and yes, they are higher than just 3 kids. That is evident from seeing how many more APP kids line up for lunch than in the past at Lowell. Also TM's principal aggressively recruits FRL and minority children from the regular education classrooms at TM to apply for and enroll in advanced learning programs. Slow progress is being made, but it takes a lot of individualized teacher and principal attention to get a child enrolled in APP when there are language barriers, poverty barriers, and lack of parental awareness of the benefits of AL programs. Kudos to Julie Breidenbach for each and every new FRL and child of color that she has helped usher into the program. We can and must do better, but the progress is real and the district should look at what factors are going into this little bit of progress. My personal view is that isolating APP in one huge elementary school will not help Lincoln's FRL numbers and diversity numbers rise. There are low income and minority kids in the North End who should be served by APP and the current model doesn't appear to be making progress in reaching them.
- Seeing more diversity at Thurgood APP

Anonymous said...

Kids who meet the eligibility requirements for APP score in the top 2% on tests that measure IQ, among other things.
IQ is influenced by a combination of factors - both genetic and environmental. So yes, the factors you mention - more stable home life, more financial security, parents who read to them, talk to them a lot etc do play a role. But genetics do to - you are more likely to find kids with high IQs if the parents also had high IQs, and higher educational levels. These genetic and environmental factors overlap - in other words higher IQ parents are more likely to have higher educational levels, higher incomes etc and therefore the kids are more likely to be exposed to an environment that is conducive to their intellectual growth.
For instance, there are fascinating studies which show a huge discrepancy in the number or words a child is exposed to in the preschool years (which correlates with vocabulary, reading ability etc in later years). from a recent NYT article "Children of professionals were, on average, exposed to approximately 1,500 more words hourly than children growing up in poverty. This resulted in a gap of more than 32 million words by the time the children reached the age of 4." This clearly impacts later achievement.
So it is totally valid to say that kids living in poverty, or minorities, or ESL families are underrepresented in APP, but there a lot of reasons for this, most of which are societal and it is not entirely fair to place the blame at the feet of the district or APP program, or make families who are doing OK feel bad about even being in the program.
The problem is that the combination of genetic/environmental factors leads to a preponderance of qualifying kids in the middle and upper income brackets.
Yes kids are there because they are "smart enough" (according to those tests of achievement and aptitude) and are "lucky enough" to have been born into circumstances that have generally helped foster their intellectual/academic growth - but you say it like that is a bad thing. Of course it is unfortunate that not all kids are born into supportive, or stable families.
I'm sure there are plenty of kids in the underrepresented groups who have the intellectual ability and would thrive in such programs and we should be better at identifying them, and getting information about testing to the families. There is debate in some quarters about the types of tests used and whether they could put some populations at a disadvantage. We also need to overcome language barriers and the lack of engagement with kids education that is a problem associated with poverty. But the issue here is poverty and the associated problems and that is a big issue that society needs to address (maybe universal preschool will help close some of the gaps?)
It's wrong to assume all APP kids come from privileged backgrounds just because hardly any meet the threshold for FRL. As dw pointed out earlier, most are middle class families. Wealthy families also have the option of private schools so I would give them some credit if they opt for the more socioecomically diverse public school setting.
Don't blame APP for the ills of society.


Anonymous said...

You state what I said more eloquently.I get tired of app parents who really think their kid is so smart and so special. I get tired of hearing people say my kid is gifted. I have to laugh at that. Einstein was gifted. Van gogh was gifted......all of these kids are not giftfed. They might be smart and are lucky. It is a fortunate combination but gifted it is not.


suep. said...

I think Chris S. is right. In fact, Lowell was much more balanced as a school before it was split in 2009. Back then, we had kids from all over the city and shared the building with the Special Ed program. It made for a great, more economically and developmentally diverse, school.

Ted said: ...A small percentage of kids that I have seen in app might fit the true gifted word. Are you an expert in the field of gifted ed? If not, then how are you -- or any of us, myself included -- qualified to make such assessments about other people's kids? I just don't think we should be making judgment about other people's kids. Plus, giftedness can manifest itself in many different ways, not always obvious, not always positive.

And what do you mean by this? A bit smarter than need to be...

Are you referring to APP parents? That's still an odd statement. But if you're referring to the kids, that's exactly the kind of attitude that makes the case for APP -- the need for a place and culture where kids can be safe from being disparaged or shamed for being 'too smart.'

Otherwise, I agree that those who avail themselves of the district's advanced learning options probably tend to be more informed and/or engaged. But they also tend to have a child who needs AL.

The district should do a better job of outreach and communication to ALL families about advanced learning options.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I am.


Anonymous said...

I’ve wrangled with this AL situation from many angles—tried to get an ALO started in a low income school, tried to find a functioning Spectrum option in an underserved area, and finally opted to send my kid to APP, despite major misgivings. In the process, I had much back and forth with the AL powers that be and ended up discussing personal history, which involved being this kind of learner as a child and being mightily failed by the system. While almost nothing was explicitly stated, Dr. Vaughn’s discussion with left me with some intuitive impressions: 1) He probably knows things we don’t about the political viability and ramifications behind the scene—he sounded like he felt the need to constantly justify that this kind of education is even needed at all 2) He believes strongly (as do I) that this education is vital for the children who profoundly need it, and that much is at stake for them 3) The programs that are less functional (esp ALO) may be part of an elaborate buffer to make things seem less stratified than they actually are, thus preserving something for the kids who need it most—I think in his heart he knows they’re often bs, but it makes the system look more palatable on paper 4) He is incredibly pleased when outreach efforts to underrepresented populations and areas actually work 5) The AL office has virtually no resources to help these efforts, beyond reaching out to families with high test scores 5) This is speculation, but I think there is some real truth to the fact that if these programs, particularly self contained Spectrum and APP, thrive too much, even without unfair resource distribution, the politics involved will feel the need to cut them off at the knees-- keeping everyone equally disrupted/miserable also keeps us/them somewhat protected. The additional resources that would be needed to have the AL office be a meaningful core of quality control would become an instant lightening rod in a district with so many other needs. My conclusion has been that the entire situation is freakishly dysfunctional, but that it is more about the larger context than the core defect of the AL office—I think Dr. Vaughn is trying mightily but has neither the pull nor the resources to do much more than that—I’m not sure a different person in the same context would make much positive change.
--from the periphery

Anonymous said...

Obviously, I was going for 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, lol.

suep. said...

@ Ted - Okay, then that's great -- you bring a valuable background to this discussion.

So have you spent much time with all these APP kids you speak of? I've been pretty involved with the program and schools for the past 8 years, have met and know many APP kids, and I don't feel qualified to know each child's abilities and challenges or determine which of them might be deemed "truly gifted" or not.

Sure, some kids may seem perfectly typical to an outside observer, but what do you know about what's going on in the rest of their lives, the sometimes debilitating intensities they may display outside of school, or at home?

I just still think that what an individual child's intellectual and emotional needs are -- no matter what SPS program we may be talking about -- is not a judgment that any of us strangers on blogs are qualified to make.

@ ftp -- Doesn't the district receive money from the state for the AL office, to pay Vaughan's salary (and conduct AL testing)? So those expenses are already covered, aren't they?

Anonymous said...


Since you are claiming that kids in APP are not "gifted" based on your expertise, can you please define what gifted is specifically? I would love to see links to scientific studies to back up your definition.

The Seattle Public School district uses the commonly understood definition of gifted - top 2% on cognitive tests which translates to an IQ of 130+.

Where are the parents claiming how unfair varsity sports are? My kid would NEVER make a varsity sports team in any sport. Maybe I should go around and claim no kids are better at sports than any other kid. This idea is just as ridiculous as what people like Ted say about education.

Why isn't it okay for kids to be different? Do all adults REALLY think everyone has the same IQ and cognitive abilities as they do? I don't because I have seen it isn't true. I have certain abilities, and other people have different ones. That's great. We wouldn't have great artists, scientists, athletes, writers, etc if we were all the same.

-happy we are different

Anonymous said...

Oh sure, there's money from the state (my understanding is it goes nearly exclusively to IDing qualifying kids), but to properly develop and police the programs effectively across the district (what really needs to happen for things to work well at all levels and sites) it would almost certainly take more resources than they have right now.

Anonymous said...

And I have to say, why are we only focused on the kids who Ted thinks at a glance need different instruction? Don't many kids have different needs, even if the difference is not obvious in the first 5 seconds? If you can't tell a kid is dyslexic in the first 5 seconds, should we not provide them an aide? I can't tell the autistic child in my kid's class is autistic in the first 10 seconds- no IEP for you! Kids can look like other kids, and still need a different kind of education- either a little different, in the form of Spectrum, or more, in what was APP. That is why we are supposed to want teachers spend time to do good assessments of their kids- because it takes a while, and kids are more different than they look at first.

I don't really care for the label, but if you can come up with a more palatable label that allows my kid to learn appropriate material at school at an appropriate pace, great. I don't care what you call it.

To throw in a mention for Spectrum, for at least one of my kids if we had a working Spectrum program near us, I wouldn't send them to APP. I would much rather participate in a neighborhood community school. But they got rid of those, and there's no walk to math or reading, so it's either the too far behind and too slow general education curriculum(which is good for whole a lot of kids, one of mine included) or the way too much trouble, too unstable, and too far away APP program. I am sure she is one of those kids you are sneering about, but she is a little kid who just deserves a public education, and to have someone up front teaching her some new things she doesn't already know. Like my kid who is closer to the norm has every day in general ed.


Anonymous said...


I actually was NOT trying to reiterate what you said more eloquently.
I was pointing out kids are in APP not because their parent just think they are "smart and special" but because they meet certain widely accepted, quantifiable parameters that define the term gifted.
"Gifted describes individuals who demonstrate outstanding aptitude or competence in one or more domains. Aptitude is defined as an exceptional ability to learn or reason. Competence is defined as documented performance or achievement in the top 10% of the population"
So yes, they are in fact 'gifted' in terms of the internationally accepted criteria used in education/psychology, rather than -as you say "smart and are lucky.....a fortunate combination but gifted it is not"
Don't get hung up on the term gifted, it is used interchangeably with other terms such as 'highly capable', talented, high ability etc. I personally do not like the g word because of the negative connotations, misperceptions it gives rise to, as evidenced by your post.
The fact that APP kids meet the criteria for 'gifted' is influenced by hereditary and environmental factors, and yes, luck. A fortunate combination.

@from the periphery
You have given me a lot to think about, and you may be right about this. Maybe I have judged Bob Vaughan too harshly when it is really the lack of top level and community support for the program that is root of the problem. I also have a sense of 'careful what you wish for' - if Vaughan was ousted, he could be replaced with someone worse!


Melissa Westbrook said...

" 1) He probably knows things we don’t about the political viability and ramifications behind the scene—he sounded like he felt the need to constantly justify that this kind of education is even needed at all 2) He believes strongly (as do I) that this education is vital for the children who profoundly need it, and that much is at stake for them 3) The programs that are less functional (esp ALO) may be part of an elaborate buffer to make things seem less stratified than they actually are, thus preserving something for the kids who need it most..."

I get this and as I have said often, there has NEVER been a champion on either the Board or a Superintendent for AL. They love those high test scores, though.

But frankly, I don't care why Vaughan does what he does. This has gone on too long and it's dysfunctional.

Sorry, we are rearranging things left and right in this district and it's time to do it for AL if ONLY for program placement purposes.

Ted, yes, tell us where you get your expertise in both gifted children and the entirety of APP parents.

Because you are making some whopping big statements and if that is your opinion, fine. Otherwise, we are all wondering how you know what you believe.

Anonymous said...

I'm throwing this out there as this thread is on change.. Given AL dept. doesn't have much resources or personnel to monitor or develop curriculum, what do people think of keeping APP in self contained program at the ES level, but open up APP pathways into all comprehensive MS and HS. What I'm saying is changing APP into ALO for MS and HS. In MS, kids take different math classes already depending on abilities rather than APP/spectrum/gen ed designation. Why not do the same for LAs and science? This way, we can capture kids who are strong in one area and not another and didn't make APP cut at ES. In algebra you may have some younger kids working 2 grades ahead, and others a year older, but working 1 grade level ahead. Same for foreign lang. and some electives. I understand the biggest drawback is fear of cohort split, but as kids get older and classes more specialized, how much of a drawback is that? Kids also start to veer into areas and subjects they are interested in.

I look ahead at HS capacity and already there's a bottleneck brewing. IF we keep on with the idea of keeping large cohorts together, I fear we will face the prepetual problem of growing out of spaces. The other alternative is a dedicated magnet school. Some districts do this, but the flip side is you run into limited seatings and waitlists.

The advantages of ALO in MS and HS are kids can stay within their community or chose alternative school if they want. IMO, it makes a better, well rounded educational experience to be in school where they inteact with all kinds of people. The district needs to rework its C & I for core subjects: science, LAs, and math for starters. So it makes sense to do this district wide with focus on how to accomodate the AL and the struggling learners. I think it is to the district's advantage as this will help with cost, capacity and transportation issues if the district doesn't have to juggle so many programs and find places to squeeze them here and there. The district has to raise the bar within each building to make this work. This is about making every school better and pursuing quality education for all kids. So it's to their advantage to push each building to "excellence" and I think, maybe too optimistically, a way to end some of the problems with NSAP.


Anonymous said...


Work: SPS, Lake Wash., private practice


Anonymous said...

Ted is expressing a reality that many of us see, but don't acknowledge. My kids tested on their 1st try into APP. They perform at the top of their APP classes, and score 99% across the board. Are they "gifted". I don't think so. They are simply bright, privileged kids with parents who value education and encourage them to work hard. They do not have special needs. Could they be served in their neighborhood school? Probably. But they get a better education in the APP program and like other families with advantages, we knew how to get them into the APP program early on.
- most APP kids are just regular kids

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ted that tells us nothing so I'm going with you are expressing an opinion.

Tiger, the program needs revamping. Your suggestion may be one way. I'm not sure we need three tiers at all.

The issue is that needs to work for more kids in better ways.

What thing to note is when Director DeBell questioned Michael Tolley about finding resources to give teachers PD, Tolley kind of demurred about "rearranging money." Vaughan should have been saying, "Director DeBell we would truly appreciate any dollars we could get to support our teachers." Did he? Nope.

Sorry, if a Board member is actually try to throw you a lifeline, have the sense to reach for it. You may not get it but it means something if you try.

(I don't want Vaughan's "head on a platter" but something does need to change.)

Anonymous said...

most APP kids are just regular kids- appreciate that at least one other concurs.

mel - too much info reveals too much.


Confused by Ted said...


Just trying to understand implications—way too much ambiguity. Here are my questions for TED:
If what you say is true, should we be changing what qualifies as “gifted” for admission into APP?
Are you implying that we should not have an advanced learning program?
Or that we should have a differently structured advanced learning program?
Should we put all the “gifted” kids by your definition in a wholly new program just on their own?
Do these “truly gifted kids” learn differently than the rest of the riff raff in APP and even Spectrum?
Or that we should jettison the word “gifted” for something that in your eyes is more accurate? Is this a semantic problem?
Or that we should not give our children access to us, provide insecurity and instability in our home just to be sure they are truly “gifted”? (isolate all the variables!)

Anonymous said...

Just trying to understand implications—way too much ambiguity. Here are my questions for TED:
If what you say is true, should we be changing what qualifies as “gifted” for admission into APP? YES
Are you implying that we should not have an advanced learning program? NO
Or that we should have a differently structured advanced learning program? YES and NO
Should we put all the “gifted” kids by your definition in a wholly new program just on their own? NO
Do these “truly gifted kids” learn differently than the rest of the riff raff in APP and even Spectrum? YES
Or that we should jettison the word “gifted” for something that in your eyes is more accurate? YES Is this a semantic problem? YES and NO
Or that we should not give our children access to us, provide insecurity and instability in our home just to be sure they are truly “gifted”? NO (my children are in APP)(isolate all the variables!)


Maureen said...

I don't doubt that there are APP kids who are truly exceptional/brilliant/gifted and cannot be appropriately educated in a gen ed classroom. That said, I concur with most APP kids are just regular kids.

I have two kids who tested into APP. We kept them at their Alt K-8 and they both had peers and teachers who challenged them and met their academic and social needs. My kids are definitely bright but they didn't need 100% of their classmates to have tested into the top 5% in order to learn and thrive. It may be that the truly brilliant kids need those other bright kids to act as a buffer for them. It may also be true that some bright kids need the cohort to motivate them otherwise they will sink to the lowest common denominator they are exposed to. I can also imagine classrooms or whole schools where your 90th percentile kids is so far above the average that they truly have no chance to learn anything new. APP seems to be the only thing on offer for those kids.

I would probably have sent my kids to APP if they had had social or academic issues at their K-8. I'm glad I didn't have to. I think learning to work with kids who exhibited a full range of strengths and weaknesses was, overall, good for my kids.

Anonymous said...

@ Ted @most APP kids are just regular kids

Look, I agree that most of the APP kids I come across including my own do not seem 'gifted' - they seem like regular, energetic kids superficially. They don't go around quoting Plato, or thinking about chaos theory. They do what it takes to do well in class but no more than that. Some, like mine, do have issues with emotional intensity- there is a lot of talk about asynchronous emotional/social development vs intellectual processing in these kids.
But I would say that they seem like pretty typical kids. They are not the kind of outliers that do algebra at 4 and graduate UW aged 12 or whatever (BTW I don't think those kids - the real geniuses - would be well served in the APP program anyway, they truly do need an individual educational plan drawing in all sorts of different resources).

So isn't the debate here really one about semantics - that somehow the kids who meet the test criteria for 'gifted' are not truly 'gifted' in the way you feel the term implies (i.e some kind of quirky kid genius?).

Maybe folks need to give up these preconceived notions about what it means to be gifted. These kids score at >98th percentile on IQ tests and >95th on achievement tests. So whatever these kids/our kids look like - that is what 'gifted' looks like according to that definition of the word.

Educational and psychology research states that kids that score at these levels learn differently, have different educational needs, may feel isolated from average peers, and have better outcomes when their learning needs are addressed in some way. So it is pretty widespread practice among school districts nationwide and internationally to identify and support these kids.

Sure, some of these kids will coast along in general ed classes and turn out fine but educational underachievement, and loss of engagement with schooling is pretty common in these kids if they are not appropriately challenged. And even if they do OK in a general ed setting wouldn't you want to them to be not just OK, but the best they can be ( note: i don't mean that in a tiger-mom kind of way). Don't we all want our kids to fulfill their potential regardless of what that may be.

Not sure what Ted's point is - that we should not have an APP program because the kids in it are not gifted enough? Perhaps in a setting where there was appropriate, quantifiable, consistent differentiation in regular schools this would be an option - but that is not our world. And this would inevitably result in inequity - those in 'good' neighborhoods with high performing school would likely have a reasonable cohort of APP level kids, whereas APP level kids residing in poorer parts of town, with disadvantaged population would likely be highly isolated, real outliers among their peers (how likely are their needs going to truly be met) - perhaps they are the ones that currently benefit most the way things are (if only we could make sure we're not missing them).

Gosh, I wish I could be more concise ; )


Anonymous said...

In the same vein as tiger's comment, my MS APP student--who is without-a-doubt gifted, Ted--thinks kids should take placement exams at MS entry. His experience is that not all the kids in APP at MS still need it and/or want it. That's not surprising given that many kids start APP in early grades, and a lot can change over the course of several years. I'm not suggesting that these kids lose their smarts, but it may become clear some were early bloomers who are no longer in those top percentiles. Placement exams--or perhaps an APP requalification requirement--might help ensure those who need the advanced classes get them. I'm really not a big fan of this whole "APP for life" approach. Then again, I doubt there would be significant shuffling based on such placement exams, and the cost would be high.


suep. said...

This is starting to degenerate into another APP-baiting thread.

I suggest we not take the bait.

Anyone can anonymously claim to be a 'giftedness expert' or even an APP parent, on a blog, and then proceed to dismiss the differences or needs of their own or others' gifted kids. That doesn't make such claims accurate.

It's a simple statistical fact that if your kid tests in the 99 percentile in the relevant tests, then they are not, by definition, a "regular kid."

@ Maureen and Ted -- There are thousands of kids in the APP program. Short of meeting and extensively interviewing the majority of these kids and their families, how can you possibly know that "most APP kids are just regular kids"?

Jet City mom said...

When we had IPP & Horizon, instead of APP and Spectrum, I seem to remember that qualification for those programs was not testing into the 99% but testing into the top % of the DISTRICT, so that we wouldn't have the problem of more students qualifying than there was room, because that only pushed the cuttoff higher.

I agree that IQ is malleable.
They don't use an IQ test for placement anyway.
However some school districts do, perhaps that would be more equitable.

Anonymous said...

@Jet City mom

They do use an IQ test along with achievement tests for placement.
The CogAT or equivalent tests such as WISC, WPPSI are tests of aptitude or IQ. Tests such as MAP, Woodcock Johnson ISEE etc are tests of achievement in reading and math. Scores in the top percentiles are required in both in order to qualify for APP.

@HIMS mom - interesting idea. Not sure how popular it would be but you raise some good points.

BTW - what was the rationale behind doing away with the IPP (which obviously served a much smaller portion of the population) and bringing in APP? How did Horizon compare with Spectrum in those days?


Anonymous said...

My idea about changing APP pathways at MS and HS to more like ALO is NOT based on a question of who is gifted or just smart and a hardworker. What I really want is a sustainable and thriving program. How to keep AL open and serve kids better as a program while existing in the real world of SPS with all its complicated budget, program, capacity issues, etc.??? For me, 2 things that I see recurring are space issue and C & I. We are out of classrooms in parts of this city. And it'll be a couple of years before we'll have new MS to fit all these kids in. Then the next log jam will be HS and that will be a district wide problem as well.

I think the job for AL director is to test kids in, be its spokesperson, helped developed the AL part of C & I and if possible, program evaluation. I don't think the director has much power to even fufill that job description. Kinda like the frustration with special ed director.

As I see it if we can somehow harness the postive things about APP (strong advocacy, the energy, SPS navigational savvy, C & I development, work ethics) and be absorbed as an asset into the community and not just stand separate, we all will have a stake in making our schools better, not just the program we're in. Ugh, I'm probably rambling and not sure if I'm making sense anymore.

dw said...

tiger said: what do people think of keeping APP in self contained program at the ES level, but open up APP pathways into all comprehensive MS and HS. What I'm saying is changing APP into ALO for MS and HS.

Sorry tiger, but that's a terrible idea. Not terrible in an idealistic way, but terrible in the context of the realities of our city and SPS.

Sprinkling "APP" around to every middle school is the functional equivalent of doing away with APP in middle school.

High school is already somewhat like that, but at least by funneling most of the kids into two schools there's enough of a cohort to drive appropriate classes, although the high school split is very likely to affect Garfield's offerings over time.

Anonymous said...

Another APP thread that is a hot mess...

tired of it isn't there an APP blog

Anonymous said...

To: Tired of it isn't there an APP blog

Why are you still here reading this thread then??

- troll patrol

dw said...

Maureen said: I don't doubt that there are APP kids who are truly exceptional/brilliant/gifted and cannot be appropriately educated in a gen ed classroom. That said, I concur with most APP kids are just regular kids.

I have two kids who tested into APP. We kept them at their Alt K-8 and they both had peers and teachers who challenged them and met their academic and social needs

Please don't take this the wrong way, but it's not appropriate to look at your own kids and a few others that you might know on the side and extrapolate that to the program at large. Those of us who have been in the program with multiple kids over the course of many years and several schools have a different vantage. I do not agree with the statement that "most APP kids are just regular kids". However, there is a growing problem that needs to be addressed. Ted and this person:

...My kids tested on their 1st try into APP. They perform at the top of their APP classes, and score 99% across the board. Are they "gifted". I don't think so. They are simply bright, privileged kids with parents who value education and encourage them to work hard. They do not have special needs. Could they be served in their neighborhood school? Probably. But they get a better education in the APP program and like other families with advantages...
- most APP kids are just regular kids

are acknowledging a problem with APP as it is currently implemented.

Yes, there are kids in the program that don't necessarily need it, and that percentage has increased a lot over the past few years. When the program was completely contained at Lowell/Washington/Garfield, the feeling was much different. The 350-400 kids at Lowell were mostly the "out there" kids that really benefited from this program. Most kids really needed it. Merely the fact that most of them had to travel a significant distance to get to school meant that the self-selection filter was high enough that most families only opted into the program if there was truly a need.

Now, the district has been killing Spectrum around the city and constantly diddling with the entry criteria until we're letting in almost as many "bright" kids as "highly gifted" kids. There is a big difference in the needs of those different categories, and the current model is not serving either group optimally.

Also, with the changes in population more adults get the "they're not THAT special" attitude, which undermines the program even further, spoiling it for those kids who really do need a program like APP. We now have a situation where lots of the kids who are enrolled in APP are not really what some of us would even have called APP kids a few years ago. New families with young kids at Lincoln have a very different view of what APP is (and I'm guessing Ted and "most" are in that category - I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong!). They're not wrong to have their viewpoint, but they don't see the big/long-term picture.

The solution is easy, if uncomfortable:
- The entry requirements for APP need to be tightened back up. Like to 2002 levels. Do it gradually over a couple years, if necessary.
- Spectrum needs to come back online and get serious support.
- Principals who do not support real, proven Advanced Learning programs need to be moved (yes, looking at you, Chris Cronas)

It would be incredibly hard to re-coalesce the programs back to a single building at each level, although that would be ideal in many ways. However, there's absolutely no reason to split/dilute any further, and if Spectrum was given the support it deserves (needs!), APP would probably shed at least 10-20% off it's current numbers fairly quickly. The fact that the program has been growing is due to district mis-management, not the sprouting of massive amounts of highly gifted kids all around the city!

Charlie Mas said...

I would like to make a distinction between the theoretically correct and the actually correct.

Theoretically, my APP-eligible children could have be appropriately served in a general education classroom while they were in elementary school. As a matter of practical fact, however, they would not have been. That simply wasn't the school's focus. The school was focused on bringing every student up to grade level, they had no priority for serving students working beyond grade level.

The Standards, intended in theory as a floor, operate in practice as a ceiling.

Spectrum, and then APP, still had a ceiling, but it was a higher ceiling (except in middle school math).

So everyone, like Ted, who says that these students could be served in a general education classroom, that's right, they COULD be, but they AREN'T.

There are some schools that can do this and do it well. West Woodland used to have that reputation. Few schools share it.

I presume that other families are like mine. Our first choice would be that our children attend their neighborhood school and get appropriate service there. That wasn't an option.

ben said...


I think you discount the access issues that a single central location for a program like APP presented. Some families will simply not come whether their kids fit the profile or not if the school is too far away - the logistics are too hard. That part of having multiple schools now is all for the good.

Also frankly tightening entrance requirements is at odds with broadening identification to increase minority representation. The current process is already biased towards families willing/able to prep early.

Finally I'm not even sure what making a distinction between bright vs "truly" gifted kids means in practice. Ultimately if kids are successful in the classes I think they should have access to them where ever the site. Are there kids failing in the program right now or are you implying the curriculum is being watered down? Further, kids are not uniformly talented. If we have a hypothetical kid with a special aptitude for math but only advanced reading what do you do (or vice versa)? Basically, I think this is a can of worms. Its better to have differentiated learning and draw a wider net.


Anonymous said...

@ Snappy "BTW - what was the rationale behind doing away with the IPP"

IPP was not done away with. Back in the late 1980's maybe the early 1990's the name was changed to better reflect the actual program. It was/is an accelerated model and not individualized per se and the name IPP caused many misunderstandings. There were 1st-5th classrooms at the elementary level and yes some kids worked way ahead of their IPP peers. And believe it or not there was an IPP LA/Social Studies curriculum -it was called Origins, Systems, and Patterns. Some IPP kids at WMS went over to GHS for math.

I am not sure how the program ended up with the name IPP but it was created by Dr. Hal Robinson from the UW, was started to serve extreme outliers, and I believe his vision was that kids would leave middle school after the 7th grade and begin the Early Entrance Program It has morphed into something beyond that and did so many years ago.

@Jet City for a time students eligible for the IPP program were in the top 1%-1.5% of their ethnic group both cognitively and achievement wise. The District quit using that criteria after a lawsuit filed by a family of a biracial student. Also, I believe qualifying test scores by ethnicity were published in one of the newspapers. BTW, my recollection is that the family lost the suit.

While I understand that this thread is about leadership or lack thereof in the AL office, I simply offered this up as perspective.

old parent

Anonymous said...

I'm an expert in gifted kids. Well...my two gifted kids, at least. And; they're just regular kids, too. If reading the likes of Harry Potter in kindergarten is regular. That's normal around our house. They get along well with their non-gifted peers for the most part, but they do think differently. At first this didn't create problems, but as they got older, the differences between them and those peers became greater and more obvious to the kids as well as the adults. One of them absolutely hated school and thought he was bad at math until we got him into a program that met him where he was. No, he's not doing calculus in fourth grade and arguably his real gifts and drive are in the arts. His younger brother's real natural gifts seem to be more athletic. But neither of them were being well served in the regular classroom. The eldest would be on a path to underachieving and dropping out and the youngest would be acting out and and end up being labelled disruptive or ADHD if they weren't being engaged in a gifted classroom. Funny thing is that it's so uncomfortable even acknowledging (let alone bragging about) our kids' cognitive gifts. It practically seems we should be embarrassed about them. While at the same time; we're expected to toot our horns about and encourage their other gifts - especially the athletic. It's a shame that it's so damn dysfunctional because it's intertwined with issues of race and class.

- Yeah, I went there. What are you gonna do about it?

Jet City mom said...

I am surprised that the district individually administers WISC-r, Wppsi, Standford Binet etc. How much is in the budget for that?

( I am aware that the district occasionally allows outside test results to be submitted, but how many parents have the money & motivation to do this?)
Medical insurance paid for our kids to be given intelligence testing, but since they didn't qualify with the group administered achievement test, I thought it was irrelevant that the oldest's score was in the top 0.03%.


Do we have similar guidelines for gifted ed in Washington?

Anonymous said...

I'm genuinely interested in your Q&A answer "should we be changing what qualifies as “gifted” for admission into APP? YES." What would revised entry criteria look like to you and what is that based on (practices in other districts/research etc)?


I'm curious about a couple of things from the old days - maybe you or someone else could fill me in.

1.. When you talk about 2002 entry criteria as an example, what were they back then (what percentiles were required and on what tests)? Was it APP or still IPP at that point in time?

2.After the change to APP were the criteria still tighter than they are today (what were they) or did the criteria change happen simultaneously with the program change?

3. What was the rationale behind doing away with the IPP (which obviously served a much smaller portion of the population) and bringing in APP? How did Horizon compare with Spectrum in those days?

4. Someone said IPP was the top ?% of the district rather than nation. So what tests did they use and how did they figure out the local percentiles when the tests are nationally normed. Maybe that would still be a valid approach these days?

The criteria used here seem pretty consistent with those used by school district nationwide. Some areas do delay testing for entry until later grades though. Is that worth considering here?

I'm just trying figure out what happened along the way to get where we are today.


Anonymous said...

@jet city mom

The district administers the CogAT as it's IQ or aptitude test, and uses the MAP as it's achievement portion.
I was just listing those tests as examples of the other types of tests that fall into each category (different districts use different tests for example).
Equivalent percentiles on some of those of other nationally-normed tests are accepted as grounds for appeal if district-administered tests were unrepresentative or coming from outside of district/private school etc. The district does administer certain additional tests for FRL appeals.


Anonymous said...

Dw, I'd also like to know what entry criteria you suggest. Where I see the current standards causing problems is with MAP inflation or fluke high scores. But many say it is only the cognitive results that should matter anyway.

Just not sure

hschinske said...

National norms are required by the WAC that went into effect in 1984. The use of local norms was presumably before that.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

@old parent - thanks for the insight, sounds like the old entry criteria for IPP would have been a can of worms, even if the program itself was good

agree -"tightening entrance requirements is at odds with broadening identification to increase minority representation". I guess they tried to deal with that with the old IPP criteria that old parent mentioned and look how that ended...

@ Yeah, I went there.....
what you say is so true about it "being uncomfortable even acknowledging (let alone bragging about) our kids' cognitive gifts. It practically seems we should be embarrassed about them. While at the same time; we're expected to toot our horns about and encourage their other gifts - especially the athletic."
It kind of bugs me too. My kids will never be soccer stars, or musical prodigies or whatever, I guess their strengths are academic. But I feel I can never express any pride or whatever about that without raising the ire of people who hate the idea of APP, think it's elitist etc. But no one ever complains about the kids in select/premier soccer (isn't that elitist?? why shouldn't all kids of the same age play the same soccer league?? haha). Everyone happy to hear about kids with who are high achievers in sports or other extracurriculars but I"m almost apologetic when I tell people my kids are in APP cause they're high achievers academically (I would never state it that way).


Anonymous said...

@Snappy: Actually, we do lament/complain about the loss of gifted soccer players from our school to select teams. But no one expects them to feel bad about it or change their decision out of a misplaced sense of fairness.

_yeah I went there

Melissa Westbrook said...

My thoughts:
- ignore Ted. He came here to puff out his chest and tell us his opinion. We have no idea whether he knows anything about what he is talking about.

- My vote is to tighten APP, end Spectrum (sorry but apparently it is destined to death by a thousand paper cuts) and ramp up ALOs in a big way. ALOs at every school for any student, tested or not. You want rigor - here's how we will develop it in every neighborhood school. That's not going to cost a lot of money as much as planning.

- APP. Frankly, if you believe that gifted kids only exist in fairy tales, fine by me. I know differently. I know they will not do well in a regular class and need a cohort. For all 12 years? Maybe not. But yes, in elementary and middle school.

- Yeah I went there - go there anytime you like. I am very sad that people love to go on about their kids who are talented in sports or music but if a child excells academically, you are demented snob. Nonesense.

- Other district, throughout the country, get it right and they also call it "gifted and talented' to cover kids across the spectrum.

seattle citizen said...

Wading in....shudder...
I'm no genius (or maybe I am: my parents had me take an IQ test at a young age but would NOT tell me the results, only say that I was "bright." It was implied that I had done well on said test), but:
I'm sharp as a tack in some areas, dumb as a rock in others.

I suspect that what I am hearing from Ted, Maureen, and a couple of others is what I feel when I read that a child (or an adult) is in the "top 2% on cognitive tests which translates to an IQ of 130+": I roll my eyes and say, "on what test? With what correlatives? When was the test taken? What outside factors influenced the test? Was the child exposed to hundreds of thousands of words before age six, or merely, oh, a thousand?"
I don't mean to disrespect anybody, but calling someone "the top two percent" disrespects all the other people, right, because it suggests that these ARE the top two percent, and yet there are many ways these children are dumb as rocks (no disrespect to them: I'M dumb as a rock in some ways, as mentioned.)
Just because some test, often taken at just one point in a child's life, suggests that in SOME ways this child has SOME smarts, they get a whole program devoted to them, they get to hang around a bunch of other "bright" children?
I've wrestled with this for years: I have been an avid supporter of APP at the K-8 level (9-12, of course, doesn't exist, except as a cohort pathway to Garfield...which is nice...stay together, comfortable, with your cohort...) because I believed that these children need protecting. The "challenge" part, "my kid needs more challenge," is an insult to all other children and their parent/guardians: ALL children need various challenges in various ways.
Academic challenge? A whole curriculum of it? Let's break it out: for instance, an APP child excells at reading literature, but struggles with informational text. Gen-ed student reads info but not lit. Gen-ed writes wonderful poetry, but can't write an essay worth beans, APP writes 100 page research papers. BOTH need challenges in their own ways. EVERY child has their unique challenges and aptitudes.

I'm not being too clear, but what I'm trying to say is that a test taken at age six simply can't justify a K-8 track of a cohort that gets the luxury of staying with other together, with the bonus of expecting MORE challenge than their gen-ed compatriots.


seattle citizen said...

continued from above

As has been pointed out, ALL students need challenges in their particular ways, in EVERY classroom. To claim that a child is somehow, well, smarter than another is not fair to those other PUBLIC SCHHOL students who are, in their own ways in need of their own sorts of challenges. The IQ test back at age six simply does not justify the many claims that arise from them: MY child needs the support of her/his peers; MY child needs challenge; MY child needs to be surrounded by similarly "smart" children.

Combine all this with the fact that many aspects of a child's various and sundry intelligences (many not tested on the IQ) come not from genetics but from environment and you have a recipe for entitlement: My grandparents were relatively wealthy and read a lot and had the leisure to negage in enriching activities; my parents were similarly situated and thus provided ME with many, many enriching activities and thousands upon thousands of words....So I did "ok" on some test way back then: That makes me entitled to something...MORE...than all the other kids? It IS more: staying together in a cohort of children who have, among them, many, many highly read parent/guardians, many of whom are wealthier because...they are highly read or their parents were, many of whom know how to provide enriching activities for the children, to the whole cohort....what a luxury! The rest of the PUBLIC SCHOOL masses have to take the schedule that is handed them, sit next to all sorts of students with all sorts of intelligences (and NOT the orderly, statistical ones one finds on IQ tests, but a real mish-mash of intelligences!)

So while I was a supporter of APP for many years, I've come around to believe that it's exclusionary in a public school setting. Yes, if you want to spend the money for some private school, go for it...But let's not forget that the private schools suffer the same issue: They're an isolated cohort, separated from their peers and made to feel that they are above those peers, different.

Instead of naming a top two percent, why don't we recognize the excellent intelligences, plural, in EVERY child? And let them all hang out together.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, let's just put them all in the same classroom and see how that works out.

I tell outside (of SPS) people all the time - want to start a fight here, talk about gifted kids.

Very depressing and disappointing and NOT how it is in districts throughout the country (and I would guess the majority of them think they are wrong as well).

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

To: Tired of it isn't there an APP blog

Wow, you're still here even though you're so tired of it. What a trooper. Shame you don't have any sensible thought/opinions to share.

Troll patrol

Anonymous said...

Of course they all need challenge! But it is no more appropriate for many of these kids to use the general education curriculum than it would be to stick a gen ed first grader in preschool. They already know everything there. They learn faster and already know all the stuff in regular ed at their grade(that is what the two tests test for- not whether their soul is light enough to move on, just how fast they learn and whether they have mastered grade level material), so they should get to move on. Nobody gets to be challenged every minute of every day(even in advanced learning), but everybody should get to be challenged some part of every day.

I shared your philosophy until my kid(the APP one I would rather send to Spectrum) sat in a nice classroom in a good school with a great teacher not learning anything all year while the other kids did. She's not so special; she's just ahead and learns faster, which is the sort of issue schools are supposed to deal with. The cutoff is actually a little meaningful, though I agree it's probably too early (but later you have exacerbated class differences more). There are lots of different kinds of intelligences, but kids with this kind usually learn faster at everything. Not every single time, but most of the time, enough that it's worth having a program. Some kids really do go through school stuff faster.

My kid in gen ed who is appropriately placed there IS being challenged. Learning to sound out words IS appropriate for her in kindergarten, and multiplication will probably be about right in third grade, and the projects related to those skills will be appropriate. Is it all ideal? No, but nobody anywhere gets that. They just get to learn something new at school, generally.

I want to agree with kill Spectrum and offer ALO at every school, but having seen ALO (big fat zippo) in the neighborhood I can't quite be for it. Require walk to math and reading for a year in every grade, and if that works maybe.

Another thought- ideally we might educate everyone in one classroom (I could even draw up a curriculum), but practically it's not possible. In other areas we don't let the fact that theoretically things should be true get in the way. Theoretically every child should know the alphabet coming into school. Theoretically every child should come from a stable, language rich home and have breakfast before school, know some English so they can understand what is going on. Ideally many things would be true that are not, and so we put in place programs to help deal with reality, and we would never fault anyone who needed one of those programs. This is just another reality based program- teachers only have so many minutes in a day.


Anonymous said...

@seattle citizen-

"staying together as a cohort"? APP was split not that long ago, and will likely be split again soon--for example, at HIMS...so that the non-APP neighborhood kids can stay in with their cohort.

"expecting MORE challenge than their gen-ed compatriots"? Nobody expects more challenge. The whole point of APP is to provide the SAME level of challenge--meaning the coursework often needs to be several years "ahead" of where the majority of kids in the same grade would be. If everyone gets work that is at the appropriate level for their abilities--and granted that's often not the case whether in APP or not--nobody is getting "more."

"So while I was a supporter of APP for many years, I've come around to believe that it's exclusionary in a public school setting." Yes, it does "exclude" kids--those that don't test in. Just like language immersion excludes kids from their neighborhood school if they move to the area a few years and don't have the language skills...or like Algebra II excludes kids who haven't passed Algebra I. Or like special ed excludes kids who might benefit from services but who don't quite qualify. The reality is that different strategies and services are appropriate in different situations. Education is NOT one-size-fits-all!


Anonymous said...

@ seattle citizen
It's all rainbows and unicorns: lets recognize all the intelligences and give them all enriching experiences and let them all hang out, and end hunger and bring peace to the world. It sounds great and uplifting in theory but this is the real world. How on earth do you expect SPS to accomplish that?
Kids have all different innate talents and abilities - we don't really cater to them all in public school, that what many of the extracurriculars are for.
What we focus on in public school is reading, writing, math, science in elementary school, with expanded offerings in middle and high school.
And in this range of academic areas, the goal of a general ed class is to get the majority (ideally all) of its kids to attain a certain standard, or mastery of certain skills or knowledge each year. For some kids it will be a huge struggle and they will require a lot of support to do so, and surely noone begrudges them that.
For some kids it will be just challenging enough, the pace and content will be 'just about right' for them. Some will cruise through pretty comfortably.
But what about the small proportion of kids who just get it right away, or they already mastered the content last year, or the year before. What if they are bored out of their mind, clowning around for something to do, distracting others. Or what if they have just withdrawn from the whole process - after all, what is in it for them? Do we just ignore them and expect them to be bums on seats? What about the girls who feel they have to act dumb because of the gender bias against smart girls.
Not every teacher is capable of providing the degree of differentiation required in a class that is likely well over 25 kids. Inevitably, more time and resources will have to address the strugglers, and a lot of things (school funding, teacher evils) depend on getting these kids to attain the standards.

We have to strive to bring up the kids who stuggle, but also propel on the ones that languish at the top. They need it just as much in order to be engaged and successful in their schooling. They need their educational needs met just as much as the kids who need help to read at grade level, or get extra tutoring in math. If their education needs are 2 or more grade levels ahead of their peers then why does anyone have a problem with that addressed? Those kids still need to be taught something, at a school somewhere - so why do folks dislike so much that is is in a self-contained environment - it's not like they are consuming more resources, requiring more teachers than any other kids. No-one is getting anything more or better than at a demographically comparable general ed school, it's just a different pace and different grade level curriculum. The difference means that at APP, most of the kids who enter get to be the regular kids in their class -, the ones for whom it is just challenging enough, with the pace and content will be 'just about right' for them.


Anonymous said...

@ Snippety
I saw your post after posting mine - you pretty much said it all for me : )


Anonymous said...

Getting late, lots of typos in last post
Including -' teacher evils'. Damn autocorrect -I meant teacher evals -though some probably think they are evil!


Anonymous said...

There are many deliveries of G & T program. One of the most complicated is in Fairfax co. VA. In ES & MS, they have 4 levels, full time and part time advanced learning levels in neighborhood schools with full time available within local schools and certain designated level 4 (highest) centers all over the county. Full time, level 4, would be kids who meet a higher eligibility requirement. All MS have honors courses which are open to all kids who elect to do the coursework. ***The teachers who teach honors courses have to have the state endorsement in Advanced Academics. The HS program has multiple avenues for advanced coursework (IB, AP, equivalent to Running Start which are open to all and a STEM like academy which students have to apply to). My sister tells me her children's school tests ALL kids at grade 2 (CogAt and NNAT) For K-2, they do pull out. For level 4, they have to undergo more screening and referrals from teachers, etc. to qualify. Whew!

Next county over, Arlington, is more low-key, less stratified. They have entrance requirements that look at everything: student portfolio, teacher referrals, along with academic performance. They don't actually require an IQ test. So what students get is a lot of differentiated instruction, i.e. different math Honors and gifted LAs programs. The big thing I remember about Arlington Co is their emphasis on the performing arts. If you have a talent, here is where you get more opportunities from the usual advanced learning program.

Locally, I believe Shoreline tests all their kids. My co-worker whose kids go to Lake Washington school district tells me they test kids at ES and again at MS for eligibility and (I think) have waitlists. It sounds like for HS, all kids may choose AP classes and apply to the International program (similar to IB).

What I want to say is there are all kinds of way to deliver advanced learning. One thing about the Fairfax system as it's an area that is one of the fastest growing population wise (so talk about capacity issue & portables) and is very ethnically/culturally/economically diverse, they have a special program that aggressively pursue kids who are easily missed and are often underrepresented.

10 years ago, I wouldn't have guessed this district would be having a capacity issue like it does now. AL has evolved from IPP and Horizon to the programs we have now and will continue to evolve.

Anonymous said...

You're right Melissa, this is thread is VERY depressing. I am sorry to see that some of the depressing posts are from people I typically respect - yes, you Seattle Citizen.

Let's not just get rid of APP. I want to also get rid of varsity sports - they are the top percentile of athletes. Let's also get rid of higher levels of band - they are also in the top percentiles of musicians. Guess what the band teacher does at HIMS? He puts the kids in CHAIRS!!!! Another form of percentiles that kids see every day in class. Perish the thought!!! I also want to get rid of any kind of competition - chess, math, art, singing, beauty - where someone will place higher than I will. That will mean they are in a higher percentile, after all.

Seattle Citizen, this quote is priceless nonsense: "Instead of naming a top two percent, why don't we recognize the excellent intelligences, plural, in EVERY child? And let them all hang out together.." My kid has never played football in his life. Can I take him to the best high school football team in Seattle (I don't know which one that would be) and have him on the varsity football team? My child has "excellent intelligences" and I know the other varsity football players who actually know how to play would love to have him on the team so that they can "all hang out together."

Seattle Citizen - I have no idea what you do for a living, but can any random person off the street do your job exactly as well as you can? I would imagine so based on what you wrote. If you hire a new employee, I hope you don't interview them first. Anyone off the street would offer you "excellent intelligences," so anyone will do.

Why is it such a big deal in Seattle to be smart? Why is it all the grown ups who are so scared of it? I am personally okay that I am not as smart as Einstein. My self esteem is based on more than that. Too bad that's not true for others.


Anonymous said...

I see what happened when Ted ventured an opinion. It's quite unseemly.

tired of it isn't there an APP blog

Anonymous said...

Changing the topic slightly but still within the field of Advanced Learning, I'd really like to see the Advanced Learning Office to do more about creating a collaborative environment for Spectrum teachers. One thing I really like about the APP model is that there is more possibility for collaboration and targeted professional development than you have in the Spectrum programs, which tend to be siloed (?) in the neighborhood schools. I'm pretty sure that there is not even an existing Google group mail for Spectrum teachers.

A really functional Advanced Learning program would at least try to create some communication and collaborative and training opportunities for teachers tasked with that kind of teaching.

Been Here, Been There

Anonymous said...

Changing the topic slightly but still within the field of Advanced Learning, I'd really like to see the Advanced Learning Office to do more about creating a collaborative environment for Spectrum teachers. One thing I really like about the APP model is that there is more possibility for collaboration and targeted professional development than you have in the Spectrum programs, which tend to be siloed (?) in the neighborhood schools. I'm pretty sure that there is not even an existing Google group mail for Spectrum teachers.

A really functional Advanced Learning program would at least try to create some communication and collaborative and training opportunities for teachers tasked with that kind of teaching.

Been Here, Been There

Stu said...

People, People! We're never going to get anywhere with this discussion if no one will say how they really feel about this!

I posted yesterday because I believe that Dr. Vaughan has allowed the systematic dismantling of Advanced Learning in Seattle Schools on his watch and, more often than not, contributed to the dilution of an effective program. OF COURSE this discussion turned into the haves vs the have nots and my child vs your child and 1.88886% vs 1.88887 children and, of course, everyone forgets the overall issues.

The APP cohort worked.

Did it get too large? Sure, but that's not why it was split AGAINST the advice of real experts, including those brought it to evaluate it. Me? I believe it was split so that they could raise the test levels of underperforming schools by having half of the APP cohort in the building. (And, of course, that screwed the gen ed funding in those schools by lowering the percentages . . that's another discussion.)

Did they need to find ways to increase awareness and accessibility to the program? Sure, but moving the program closer to some wasn't that answer 'cause it was never going to be a neighborhood school and they were guaranteeing busing.

These are all great topics for discussion and debate, as are a lot of the intelligent and informative comments that have come before this particular ramble, however, NO program is going to be everything to every student and NO district will be able to offer every single thing that every child needs at every moment of every day. Our 8x Gifted Savantafile of a son, who's also a record-setting athlete, an accomplished musician and ice carver, and requires a walk-to-lunch program so he can dine with older kids so he's not bored by the conversation in his own lunchroom, thrived in a setting that allowed a second grader, who happened to be a little ahead of some kids, to learn at an accelerated pace with a cohort of kids who were a little speedier too.

My point is that, by identifying "like learners," a teacher, school, district, can keep students moving at a comfortable and appropriate pace AND let teachers teach instead of simply manage the class.

Whether you believe the APP/Spectrum/ALO system is perfect as is or needs improving, there's no need to dismantle in order to build; you can build on the parts that work. (This is true across our system, by the way. When JStanford school was awarded Elementary School of the Year by Scholastic, my first thought was wouldn't it make sense for our district to replicate THAT program around the region? Wouldn't it be great that a district, that has already decided immersion language education is wonderful, actually offer it to kids all over?

Ah, I see I've been ranting again and I've left my point behind.

Under Dr. Vaughan:
APP has been split, will split again, and will finally be diluted to the point that it's a program in name only. APP will continue being nomadic for many and, when Wilson Pacific is finally rebuilt and looks beautiful, APP will be denied space there 'cause they'll need it for something else.

Under Dr. Vaughan:
Spectrum, in most parts of the city, is a program in name only. Principals are given the power to change the program without input and there's no guaranteed space. At least Spectrum kids learn in a cohort . . oh, wait, Dr. Vaughan let that go too.


Stu said...

continued from previous post

Under Dr. Vaughan:
There's no consistency of ALO throughout the district and his "there's nothing we can do about it but it'll all be fine" attitude is exactly the opposite thing that's needed from the person running a program that's constantly under attack, primarily from people who don't understand its purpose or mission.

And to those of you who think APP should be disbanded 'cause YOUR kid doesn't fit in there? Go troll someplace else. There are people in this PUBLIC school district who believe that every child deserves the best education possible but, just because every child isn't getting it YET, don't believe you get rid of programs from those who are. You continually ADD to the system, you copy programs that work, you hire smart people to do their jobs with full accountability, and you get rid of staff and administrators who abdicate their responsibility.


PS - By the way, and yes I might have had too much coffee tonight, I don't always agree with Melissa and Charlie but I thank God every day that there are people like them who are so dedicated to the idea of a quality education for everyone, that they'll constantly put up with trolls and reformers who want what's best for their kid but not necessarily all the other kids. If there's been an ongoing theme to their work over the years it's been the quest for a district/administration that uses actual data, common sense, transparency, and accountability.

Anonymous said...

I see what happened when Ted ventured an opinion. It's quite unseemly.

tired of it isn't there an APP blog

Oh please. It's the same tired arguments for and against identifying and providing for gifted students. The same fretting over Bob Vaughan, testing, diversity, hothouse flowers, different intelligences, yada, yada, yada...
If it's new or shocking to you, you haven't been around very long.

What would REALLY BE SHOCKING would be some actual progress in providing for advanced learning at a variety of levels instead of the death by a thousand cuts that has been going on for at least since the first Lowell split. Or the swift and complete dismantling of any advanced learning programs. Unfortunately, I expect things to be roughly about the same ten years from now. Maybe marginally better or marginally worse. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised to find Bob Vaughan in the same position: treading water, trying to placate both sides. That's what's depressing, really.

-yeah I went there

suep. said...

Et tu, Seattle Citizen?

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting the furor that gets stirred by one stating one's opinion.

BTW, if we are to use the athletic comparison shouldn't PE classes be segregated among athletic ability. Varsity PE would be great because then all of the kids who can catch can catch together. And they woundn't have to suffer the indiginity of having to be around someone who cannot catch. They need the challenge.


Anonymous said...

Sure, Ted. Why not? They do need the challenge. But not because of any INDIGNITY. Because they deserve to be met where they are. And those who can't catch deserve to be met where they are. I didn't get the 'sports gene' and grew up without a dad to instill basic sports skills, understanding, or appreciation. I went to public school and PE left me being picked last and feeling inadequate, but didn't meet me where I was or try to bring me up to speed. I did manage to find my own athleticism as an adult. But it would have been nice to have received appropriate guidance instead of being felt like it was sink or swim. Walk to dodgeball? Walk to rope climbing? I'll go there if you will.

-yeah I went there

seattle citizen said...

Ach, Suep, "et tu"?
I haven't become a back stabber - I'm just trying to articulate my feelings on the subject. It's not "us" and "them" or "APP" and "non-APP" and this is part of the problem: APP is set apart. In special ed they demand "least restrictive environment" for the very reason that it's in the child's best interest to be placed, where possible, in the general population, to REMOVE the "us" (special ed) vs "them" (gen ed) where possible. APP is a dividing line.
I know I lost the respect of many of the long-time commenters here with my last post, partly (probably) because I was not at my most articulate. I apologize for that, but not for trying to analyze the situation.
Yes, we don't live in a world of "rainbows and unicorns" (would that we could) - the many, many ways of expression and demonstrating intelligence are NOT (and won't be)addressed by "the system" anytime soon. But that does not stop us from looking at what we have and thinking of future iterations.
I think my frustration last night is driven, by a large degree, by "the test": I have been looking at the damage caused by over-emphasis on high-stakes, nationally-normed standardized tests, and seen them used to categorize and sort children in broad, broad fashions. The MAP, the MSP, all used by the powers that be to assign children to their supposedly leveled slots. These tests are NOT addressing the "granular" breakdown of "what" a child is, or HOW they are intelligent: They merely provide a generalized idea (supposedly) of a broad category of learning. (Yes, in some instances they MIGHT break down skill and knowledge to smaller strands and targets, with the caveat that these are merely snapshots.)
So then we have the Cogat: Student exhibits very high levels of skill/knowledge...and from this a generalized idea that the child is..."smart." From this, then, all things follow: Child should have higher level challenges in EVERYTHING because they intake and master information more quickly than a student next seat over.
But, in a world of rainbows and unicorns, EVERY student would have the opportunity to learn at a higher level IN A PARTICULAR STRAND of knowledge: Mastered inference? move to next level. Already know how to find the volume? Move to next level. The assumption with APP is that, generally, these wonderful children (as all are) are levels above the other kids, yet amongst those other kids are plenty who have already mastered a skill or knowledge and are bored, ready to move on.

seattle citizen said...

...continued from above

This is an endemic problem in modern education - kids are slotted into grade levels and told to stay there, even if they have mastered, say, 2/3s of the content. In a world of rainbows and unicorns, EACH CHILD'S needs would be met.
The Cogat, like MAP, assigns arbitrary cut-offs, generalized, that say, "top 2%, generally? Go there. Bottom 25%, generally? Failing school."
Maybe I just want public schools to rotate around a mean, in a variety of different skills/strands/targets and have students working around those, some ahead and some behind, with more differentiation in the classroom (very difficult with today's poorly funded, archaic structures, but a person can dream, eh?) and more opportunities for walk-to-math, walk-to/reading, etc, available for ALL students.
I KNOW that there are a lot of kids who are rightly identified as being, generally, "above level." But there are plenty of kids who are above level in certain areas but aren't served in our current system.
So do we continue to make do with what we have? Do what we can by offering the specialized (higher level learning AND the psychological support of the cohort) to those that we can afford to? The top 2%? The top 3%? Does that mean that a child who is in the "top 10%" in, say, inference and predication just has to stay back in the gen-ed classroom and twiddle their thumbs?

I know I haven't addressed all the complaints about my previous post, and many of them are valid. I also haven't addressed all the points I raised and tried to fine-tune my expression of them. I'm sorry if I wasn't (or still am not) clear on my thinking around this: I'm no expert, just as all the many parents who haven't accessed APP, due to ignorance of it, lack of access, etc, aren't experts.

I'm just trying to get a clearer picture of what it is, exactly, that dictates a separate program. Some of those answers, and they are good ones, are in the comments above and I appreciate people's eloquence on the matter - I don't know that I'm right on any of this and there are thousands of words about it, above, that help my understanding.
Would that the threads on, say, remedial supports had thousands of words.

Anonymous said...

I suspect the INDIGNITY comment reveals Ted's true bias.
-yeah I went there

Anonymous said...

Stu, I think you can say anything you like. I just wonder if you dare to listen to what you say. According to you, the splits are an attempt to kill APP. Is it really? Ask yourself this then: how do you propose to keep the ES APP program under one roof? Or even two? Are you going to remove the local kids or special ed program at Lowell? Would that have been enough? What was the plan?

Ask another question. When the spectrum changes were going on, there was discussions about using APP organized voice, folks who sat on committees to help advocate for spectrum and ALO programs, what happened there? Some has the foresight to predict that will send APP kids from local schools to Lowell and increase applications as well. I think it did.

THIS thread is suppposed to be about Advanced Learning. But it becomes about one kind of AL. Things are inter-related. What happens elsewhere affects our program, our corner. How loud was the hue and cry when changes were made to "loosen" the admission criteria? I don't buy that people didn't want to say anything because it may sound like it was elitist or perceived as being racist. People said it, plenty of time. Here and on APP blog, out loud in hallways. You said it now.

This is what I see over and over, yes let's acknowledge thre are issues, yes wouldn't it be nice to have more diversity. How great it was to be at Lowell to have the special ed population there to interact with, etc. Do you know how that sounds? Relating and appreciating people means getting to know their favorite color and music, what they hate to eat or what they think about things. BUT to say my child needs this program to thrive and have every right to have his/her learning needs met and I personally can't change societal ills is, for me, a cop out. I hear this and have to ask if none of us can change our own society, then what's the point of all this?

I have to check myself alll the time in talking about APP, not for PC reason, but to remember the scale of things when I consider SPS has 45, OOO+ kids and APP is a very small part of that total. I don't think the district has forgotten us. It gave us more presence, more space to grow (look at Ingraham- it welcome the program). Not all principals or teachers wish AL away. Now some APP people talk about turning back to the ways things were. Was it really all that fine?


Anonymous said...


I do like 'walk tos'. Seems to solve all problems but the social issue (my kid is different and fits well into this cohort for non-academic reasons). Walk tos solve all academic issues and keeps kids in a real world environment. One where we all have to be together regardless of our social issues.


Anonymous said...

@Ted: I think walk-tos can be a piece of the puzzle, too. But, as long as age-grouping rather than ability-grouping is the norm, it's not going to work for kids more than one or two years apart - whether for differences in social, emotional or physical growth, ability to focus, or perceived indignity. We still need other supports.

-yeah i went there

Anonymous said...

I would love to hear about other kinds of ALO, but someone to whom this is an issue has to talk about it. We spent enough years in gen ed that I do wonder why walk to math is not at every school in every grade. Is it because parents get this same way about cut offs for who is working where for math? And a lot of the APP growth is just because the district has grown, especially at the elementary level. Why hasn't Spectrum been allowed to grow at the same rate?

@seattle citizen- you have almost completely described a Montessori model, which I know a lot of people do think is the best one for education. One of the criticisms is lack of direct instruction, since the kids are working on so many different things, that kids have to be self motivated, and it's not as good for kids who struggle. It would be great if all kids could be challenged at their level in all things, but nobody gets that at any school. None of mine are, and having been in the classroom I can see that designing and implementing a curriculum that challenges the kids who are way ahead would directly take time away from the kids she is working with to get on grade level. There is no time to spare for that. All of my children's teachers have been excellent- amazing, working every minute to engage as many students as possible and get the struggling kids on board. There is just no time to spare for this kind of learner if you actually put the entire range of ability in one classroom.

I also think the "I can't solve societal problems" criticism is unfair and a cop out. As with all things it is a balance. We none of us are sending all our money to starving children in Africa, but instead are giving our own kids food. I know that is hyperbole, but we are all sitting here trying- getting involved in the public system, making a go, trying to help make entrance criteria as fair as possible- but also trying to get our kids a fair education and working in reality as it is. I realize you think we've got the balance wrong, but I actually think I AM trying to fix societal ills here.


Anonymous said...

@ Ted
Do you really believe that "Walk tos ........ keeps kids in a real world environment. One where we all have to be together regardless of our social issues.".
I'm not disputing the benefit of walk to academically, I would strongly support walk to classes in all schools. But to say that keeps kids of all social strata together in their home room just isn't true. It may be the case in a demographically diverse school but do you really think that is the class in say a NE school. That whole school does not reflect the make up of society as a whole, and that's just they way it is. Do you propose bringing back compulsory bussing to fix that?

The other issue with walks to's that I can see (though I'm in favor of them) and I think this is one of the reasons why they are utilized less than they should and why spectrum is being dismantled, is that kids and parents (perhaps more so) notice who is walking where, who is in the top group for math etc, what teachers the groups have etc, and this can lead to feelings of inequity, jealousy maybe, feeling like some other groups in the school might be getting something better. Of course thats not true, they are getting something at the level they are capable of, with the amount of help they need. But nobody wants their kids to be in the bottom group I guess.
I sense that there is often not a lot of support for spectrum by general ed parents in the school they have it. I know parents who were really pleased with self contained spectrum was dismantled at Wedgwod and the spectrum kids evenly spread among the remaining classes.
So while it would be great in the rainbow and unicorn world to have lots of walk-to advanced learning opportunities in all schools, in lots of subject areas (not just reading and math) I can't see how this could work in a large scale, consistent way when you consider how dependent the success of this approach is on top-level district support and management, the buy in of teachers and admin
at individual schools, and the goodwill of the individual school communities.


Anonymous said...

Deep breath..
So the NSAP is good because it "forces" community involvement in local schools. Creates ownership and parental involvement.
Question: why doesn't that logic extend to AL? Shouldn't the NSAP be "forcing" parents of gifted and high achieving students to create opportunities for theis r kids at their local schools? Shouldn't they be demanding effective ALOs with walk tos for math and reading Thant really work?
The problem is that these parents have an out, they have an option school, that is if the y get into APP or one of the self-contained Spectrum schools. How is tha t fair?


Melissa Westbrook said...

Really? Walk-tos "solve all academic issues?" Why do you make these sweeping claims when there is no way to know this? It solved it for your child and that's great but that certainly doesn't mean it works for everyone.

I will tell you, as someone who has been completely thru the system that they used to call them "pull-outs" and guess what? They ended them. Why? Because the kids who left got perceived as the smart kids who then came back to class with the regular kids. Because teachers complained about social issues. Because parents complained.

Apparently Walk-to-Math does work but I'd bet if you talk to parents and teachers, you'd hear some of the same issues.

There is no perfect system but one thing I know for sure - Advanced Learning, warts and all, is NOT going away.

Anonymous said...

Kids know that they all have different skils and abilities. You jsut tell Johnny that hsi math skills are X and KMargarets are Y. Not everyone learns to tie their shoes on the same day. No big deal. Meeting kids needs in a mixed environment is more realistic than segregating a population. Also society's makeup cannot be met in a school. But a school can met the neighborhood's make-up.


Anonymous said...


You said: "The problem is that these parents have an out, they have an option school, that is if the y get into APP or one of the self-contained Spectrum schools. How is tha t fair? "

Because every child deserves an education, not just those working at or below grade level.

Snappy posted above that teachers who are trying to get kids up to grade level don't have time to spend on kids who are above grade level. My kid's K teacher actually said that to us - bring in our own work for our kid because she didn't have time to do it herself. I am NOT blaming the teacher - she felt badly about saying this. She said that she wanted to be honest with us that there were kids who didn't know any letters in her K class, and she didn't have the time to work with my kid who was reading Harry Potter. She strongly suggested APP for us.

As to people promoting "walk-to" programs, I have always wondered where 4th and 5th graders walk to...? If there are only a few kids in 5th grade working 2+ grade levels ahead, I have a bridge to sell you if you believe the district would pay for them to have their own math class. It sounds great, and does work when kids aren't too far ahead, but it doesn't work for kids too far ahead.

Again, APP and Spectrum cost nothing - we get the same crappy math books and crappy science curriculum as everyone else. Why all the animosity? This is all so nuts that everyone has to be exactly the same or it's elitist and unfair. Everyone should read Harrison Bergeron by Kurt Vonnegut. It sounds like he created the perfect world for many of the posters here.


Anonymous said...

"Kids know that they all have different skills and abilities. ....... No big deal."...... except that for some reason it is (maybe its not the kids but the parents) and I suspect this has a lot to do with the antipathy toward APP and spectrum.


Stu said...


You're absolutely right and I got a little carried away after reading some of the comments. The thing is, whenever people start talking about one group of kids there's someone to say "what about this group," which is sort of what you're doing here. I believe you can talk about one community without disparaging another.

I know it's incredibly jaded and depressing, but I believe that it's the goal, stated in some cases, of many in the district administration, to dismantle APP and Spectrum and farm ALO out to every local school in concept only. I believe they plan to continue to water down the program, keep it in flux to discourage more and more people, and divide it into at least 4 "cohorts", so that they can use the advanced learning test scores to boost their results and save a little money on bussing. I strongly believe that, even with its problems, the whole concept of the cohort was that a group of students with a different, perhaps accelerated, learning style had their needs met and I believe this has nothing to do with other communities. That's a straw man argument at best.

Every time someone mentions APP, ALO, or Special Ed, or Sports, or ESL, or any one community, someone manages to shift the topic so that it becomes about exclusion. By pitting communities against each other, the administration gets what it wants.

If you go back to the 2006 or so round of proposed school closings, back when a full-with-waiting-list school like Sacajawea was on the list, there was lots of space in the South End and none in the Northeast. The district tried to close schools completely ignoring the growth data, which proved to be absolutely correct, because they couldn't close schools in one area, where there was capacity, without having someone tell them how unfair it was that the other region got to keep all their schools.

Did APP at Lowell have problems? Sure it did. But, in general, as a model, it did pretty damn well. But don't kid yourself about the reasons for the split. It had nothing to do with capacity or making the program more accessible ("make it North and South, that would be fair") or better; it was strictly political. "How come THESE kids get this when our kids don't!" The district showed their hand with their original proposal; half the kids go to Thurgood Marshall and half go to Hawthorne . . both in the South End. And accessibility? You need to change the admissions criteria to increase access. They didn't propose that; they simply wanted it "closer" and they wanted it housed with gen. ed. ("Hey kids! If you press your nose up against the window, you can see what you don't have!)

See? There I go again . . . off topic. OK . .take a breath and try simplicity:

Under the "watch" of Dr. Vaughan, the Accelerated Learning programs in Seattle have been split, watered down, diminished, and moved from building to building. If he continues in his position, there's no one who will stand up and stop it. Every school has a different idea of what ALO is or should be and, quite often, implementation is at the will of the principal-du-jour. Spectrum is no longer actually Spectrum and, again, every principal has the power to redefine the program. APP is nomadic and used a political fodder by every other group.

Finally, just in case I didn't say it clearly, advocating for one community does not take away from another community. Saying that Spectrum should be stronger or APP should stop being moved around or that the person in charge of the programs should actually TAKE charge of the programs, has nothing to do with special ed students, 19x brilliant kids, the quadra-lingual community, or the webbed-toe contingent.

Most of the comments in this thread are accurate and sincere and made by people who care about what happens to this school district. However, thi is about accelerated learning and Dr. Vaughan; he has not done his job advocating for HIS programs!


Anonymous said...

@sheesh, the point is, if you don't like your school and your not APP or Spectrum identified, you are stuck. NO options. Getting qualified as gifted or highly gifted gives you de facto an option school, guaranteed.
This takes away the incentive to improve your local school to meet your needs, which is trumpeted as the benefit of the NSAP.


Anonymous said...

(I'm Snippety, who said the thing about teachers not having time before, not snappy. Now realizing I should have thought longer about my moniker).

@Ted- Meeting kids in a mixed environment is absolutely not more realistic than segregating them. If we acknowledge at all that children have different skills (and that the sky is blue and the grass is green), we will be segregating them some amount in order to teach them the next thing they are working on. ALSO acknowledging that some kids are outliers(to some degree, not determined by you, Ted, internet expert), and millions of pages of research tells us that they learn faster and will be far ahead in all subjects, asking a school to teach as far ahead as they are as well as the struggling kids is absurd. Walk to math would help (some). Spectrum would help (some). If you think any one idea is the complete solution to advanced learning I am sure you realize you must be wrong.

@Parent, I wouldn't say they have an "extra" option. If your child is working on grade level, then you have one option for a school which delivers curriculum at that level. If your child is working 2 or more ahead, you also have one option for a school delivering curriculum where they are. It's APP. Anyone can try to test in. Nobody "has" the option anymore than kids in a walk to math have the option of walking or not and so should be made to all sit in one classroom.


Anonymous said...

"Question: why doesn't that logic extend to AL? Shouldn't the NSAP be "forcing" parents of gifted and high achieving students to create opportunities for theis r kids at their local schools? Shouldn't they be demanding effective ALOs with walk tos for math and reading Thant really work?
The problem is that these parents have an out, they have an option school, that is if the y get into APP or one of the self-contained Spectrum schools. How is tha t fair? "

AHAHHHHAAAAA Yes, lovely, I will "demand" an effective ALO at my neighborhood school, with myself and the 7 other families that give a hoot about this. Oh, wait! I tried that already!

This is exactly how I thought BEFORE I navigated the system from an undeserved area. Here's a newsflash: Many neighborhood schools do not want to help these learners. In our case, out caring, lovely, diverse school voted an ALO down overwhelmingly. These educators, many of whom I deeply respect, do not have the practical bandwidth to add to the needs they are already serving, and unlike a lot of others, they were honest enough to say that. Many schools will say they'll do it, and then won't prioritize it.

Please report back when you have more perspective of the realities on the ground: volunteering in mixed-skill gen-ed classes at a diverse school, tutoring kids up to standards after school, trying to launch a viable ALO program at one of these schools, and living in an area without a critical-mass Spectrum program.

Here is another thing to think about--kids who get things very easily do not rub off on their classmates, they frequently just annoy them. I had the experience of leading a writing celebration of mixed grade kids--kids worked very hard and were rightly proud of their projects...and then APP-destined girl shares her work, 10 times as long, 5 times as detailed, completely utterly different. And the previously proud kids look downright shattered. What's the upside to that? It is a huge, and I'd say at this point, unwarranted assumption that the schools and classmates are better off keeping the outlying AL kids.


Anonymous said...


You must also be a resident in the land of rainbows and unicorns: "This takes away the incentive to improve your local school to meet your needs, which is trumpeted as the benefit of the NSAP."

You really believe what you wrote above? If I had kept my kid at our neighborhood school, my neighborhood school would have met his needs? I wish you were there when the principal told me that his needs were beyond what the school would be able to provide. He was very nice about it, and gave me the AL testing form.

You must also be new to the district to write what you did above. Parents all over the district really struggle to improve their schools and oftentimes don't have any luck. Maybe you have not noticed that the district doesn't care about pleasing the parents.


Anonymous said...

Even within APP, there is a broad range of skill levels. A teacher tried grouping kids for math and got an earful from parents. It also shortened the math time for everyone. If the class is split in 2-3 groups, and you are trying to give 2-3 different lessons a day, it can reduce what can be covered for everyone. Differentiation is hard. It's an exceptional teacher that can juggle it all. Let's not kid ourselves into thinking all teachers can reach all kids at their level in a single class.

I would liken programs such as Spectrum and APP to having swim lessons at the appropriate skill level. You don't want to throw a beginner swimmer into the deep end and let them struggle to stay afloat. You want the instruction to be a good fit for the skills and the level of the child so they can advance at a reasonable pace. My child was in the beginner class multiple times. I didn't begrudge other parents when their child moved ahead and my didn't. Eventually my child learned to swim, and that was the primary goal of lessons.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"..an effective ALO at my neighborhood school, with myself and the 7 other families that give a hoot about this."

ALOs were originally set up to provide access to rigor to ANY student who wanted it, tested or not.

".. wish you were there when the principal told me that his needs were beyond what the school would be able to provide."

This happened to my son in first grade. Just a shrug from the principal. We left SPS for one year because of it.

Anonymous said...

Commenters illustrate my point, they have options. They can accommodate the rigors of APP better, transit times, disruptive moves of student populations, etc. or as MW did, they can homeschool or go private. The incentive to stay and fight for more rigor at their local school is less than the incentive for a familymstuck at a poor performing school to invest and improve. A family who doesn't have a child in APP orbSpectrum has to stay.
On the flip side, the advantage to getting more kids in APP is the increased socialization it provides for the 2e and gifted who need the self-contained model at a behavioral level. I don't have problem with parents pushing as hard as possible for rigor, I just think having APP and Spectrum schools as an option makes it easier for them to give up on their local and leave, which is an option gened parents do not have.

Anonymous said...

Stu, we're cool. I got heated myself. As to the sports analogy. I used that analogy too except I got reminded by my eldest that playing for HS varsity 3A or 4Abasketball isn't going to help with finding a job. It may provide a college scholarship and possibly a career, but you have to be even more an outlier than the usual APP statistics. That's why if you can ever get a hold of those absent parents will still tell you, of course, they want their kids to go to good schools, to stay out of trouble, to graduate, go to collegee, and find a good job. Even the kids who find more trouble than their HW want a good, safe future. It's getting there that's hard.

I agree as it stands, ALO and what's left of spectrum is not a good fit for APP qualified kids as these programs are so uneven among the ES level. However, once you get to MS, things do start to separate out in terms of coursework. Why not take advantage of that natural differentiation and be even more aggressive at offering more Honors classes. Maybe we can't do it in all comprehensive MS because of cost, staff, and space issues. But where there are the numbers that can support it, why not try? It does mean an absolute committment from the district and revamping their C & I and buy in from staff. But many MS and HS already have kids working at different levels either by choice or qualification (pre-reqs and abilities). There are compromises and challenges here. And yes, I'll admit to a bit of idealism.


Anonymous said...

@SC wrote: "So do we continue to make do with what we have? Do what we can by offering the specialized (higher level learning AND the psychological support of the cohort) to those that we can afford to? The top 2%? The top 3%? Does that mean that a child who is in the "top 10%" in, say, inference and predication just has to stay back in the gen-ed classroom and twiddle their thumbs?

Answering the last question, it sure looks like that's what is happening now, as Spectrum craters throughout the district.

SC, you raise many valid points and issues, but sadly, your proffered remedies buy into the same-old, same-old zero-sum game mentality that says if one group has something good, it can only be at the expense of everyone else. I'm sorry, but that is pure bunk, and you should know better.

What we are all experiencing is a schizophrenic district cannibalizing itself before our eyes. Changing the Spectrum model from self-contained to clustering was in direct conflict with the AL Plan put in place during the APP splits in '08. The plan at that time called for Spectrum programs to be expanded and strengthened, and that is what APP advocated for at that time. The Central Program was to be moved from Leschi to Muir, Madison Middle was to get Spectrum - finally - 10+ years after it had thrived at Lafayette, right down the street, which would finally capture the Spectrum families who'd been heading off to continue Spectrum at WMS or Denny.
And literally every school in the district was to have ALOs available for every child in the district to avail themselves of.

Finally, SPS was on the verge of getting it right, where every child who excelled in any subject could have the full menu of options without facing the hard choice of sacrificing something good, like good friends at the local school, for better academics.

So, what happened? Almost the complete opposite? ALOs were largely mythical, Spectrum was sacrificed primarily because of capacity management issues, where Spectrum wait-lists popped up at schools that never had them before, overcrowded schools produced previously unseen levels of tension and stress among parents, students and staff as they wrestled through problems no person should have to deal with, and the ranks of APP swelled to previously unseen numbers as refugee families began abandoning local schools like rats from a sinking ship.

Every problem with Advanced Learning, instead of being treated or solved, has been exacerbated, leading to people like yourself reaching the ultimate decision that AP is "the problem" that has to go. I'm sorry, but that's just flat wrong.

After 7 years in the program with two kids, I can say that there are many, many families now in APP who would not have been there in years past, and do not share the values, humility, and recognition of what a godsend APP is for many previously suffering kids throughout the district. Too many new families in APP strut around wearing the label like a shiny new sports car. I'm sorry APP kin, but it's true, it's wrong, and it needs to stop, because it's hurting the program by feeding the elitist, arrogant image many draw of APP.

But to return to my main point, SC, APP is not the problem, AL is. No Spectrum program should have been dismantled until ALOs had been ramped up in every school. Had that happened as planned, we would not see the educational classism we see today, and parents wouldn't be at each others throats like they are now.

No child needs to be deprived of an opportunity to learn or master a subject because another child is being well-served elsewhere. That mindset is divide and conquer, SC, and buys into the zero-sum mentality that protects the lethargic in this district and passes the buck round and round while never solving the problem.

AL is simply, and severely, screwed up right now, but prying more nails out of APP's timbers is not going to solve a damn thing for anyone. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

"..an effective ALO at my neighborhood school, with myself and the 7 other families that give a hoot about this."

"ALOs were originally set up to provide access to rigor to ANY student who wanted it, tested or not."

Melissa--I agree with you about everything that should be done, for sure. The vision of ALO that I advocated for was inclusive and would have benefited many more children than the ones who tested into AL. But my experience was that there were not that many families who were willing to push the issue.

And after the teaching staff votes against it, I'm not sure what more fight there is to have. The idea that the changes can or should be advocacy-based at the school level is tragically misguided, because what this means in practice is that the affluent schools with critical mass will have good programs, while the schools without those advantages will persist in not meeting the needs of these kid well. Inequality would be exacerbated instead of remedied. Any solution that fixes this really has to be district-wide.

Anonymous said...


Gen ed parents who are disatisfied with their neighborhood school also have the option to homeschool, go private, or enrol in an option program (I realise this is space permitting/lottery - but so is spectrum if it's not your neighborhood school). They too can advocate to improve the school. Why should that be the responsibility of the AL parents?


Anonymous said...


All you have to do is take the advice of parent: "The incentive to stay and fight for more rigor at their local school is less than the incentive for a familymstuck at a poor performing school to invest and improve."

Easy peasy lemon squeezy. You just need to ask and the school will provide all the rigor you want. That's why the AL program is so strong all over the district!!!!


Melissa Westbrook said...

WSDWG is right about some APP parents. I have some e-mails from an APP listserv discussing the impacts of an interim plan on their kids and it was not pretty. In fact, it was pretty myopic. I don't get it.

As well, the AL Taskforce work was dominated by APP both because we had many APP parents on it AND FACMAC was pressuring us for our recommendation on APP placement (as if APP was the only AL program).

I'm not an APP parent (and never was) but I would heed the words of advice given.

Anonymous said...

MW: The APP-AC folks used to remind people of why we went APP in the first place, and the most common reason was that our kids were misfits at the local school, but fit right in with APP peers. (SC needs to remember that 90% of these kids have been there & done that at the local school already, and it didn't work).

It is easy to become myopic, even hysterical at times, at how and why the district treats the APP community the way it does at times. It's not fun being despised by so many people who don't understand the program, even though we get used to it.

But APP shares the same issues with many other schools that perpetuate the anxiety among parents: The down economy, overcrowded schools, poor principal placements, hidden agendas & ulterior motives by administrators, lousy - stinking - rotten math curriculum (!!) and never knowing where your cohort will be next year, or if it will get split up again, disbanded, etc. It would make any group or program myopic, and frankly paranoid, because so much that is done makes so little sense.

Remember: Just because your paranoid doesn't mean everyone isn't out to get you.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You need a name otherwise you will be deleted:
"As well, the AL Taskforce work was dominated by APP both because we had many APP parents on it AND FACMAC was pressuring us for our recommendation on APP placement (as if APP was the only AL program).

MW: Apples vs. Oranges.

When I was a Spectrum parent at the local school, I never went to board meetings or had any involvement with the district at all. When you enter APP, all of that changes as you're now in a district or region-wide program. It's therefore no surprise at all that committees are dominated by APP parents.

It is, however, quite a shame, considering Spectrum should represent 10% of the district, or about 5000+ students, compared to APP's 2000+.

While Spectrum and APP both constitute advanced learning programs, the experiences are as different as night and day between a program in your local school and a 1/2 city draw."
HIMS mom

MS Spectrum Parent said...

As a MS spectrum parent, how can I and others be better represented at the district level? We feel so powerless and unrepresented right now, especially as we're in one of the APP schools. There are several of us who are REALLY keen to get organized. Advice?

Anonymous said...

@parent - my child was at John Hay elementary - a great school, lots of parent support, excellent teachers and principal. It was perfect for our oldest child. It was not a good fit for our youngest child. He is so much happier at Lincoln. John Hay was not a good fit for him. It's not that John Hay needs improving - it's a top notch school. But it couldn't meet our son's needs.

You seem to be implying that kids are at APP because their local schools weren't very good and the parents didn't want to improve them. I know a number of kids who come from neighborhoods with high performing elementary schools - but who are now at APP - because they need what APP provides.

Lincoln mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

MS Spectrum, you must organize. Way back when Charlie and I (and several other parents) tried to organize Spectrum. APP is easier because it is in fewer schools but Spectrum is spread out.

However, the times are different. I would suggest making a list of Spectrum schools, contacting the PTA for possible Spectrum parent contacts, organizing regional meetings and talking. Find out what are parents' concerns with Spectrum, district-wide and at their school.

If Spectrum parents organized like APP, then we might see some change in AL.

Let me know if you need help.

Anonymous said...

Those who think that parents of gifted kids just need to do a little advocacy at their neighborhood school and then they'll finally get what their kids need are living in some serious denial.

I bet if you were to ask parents of these extreme outliers, they'd say they've been advocating at their schools from pretty much Day 1. Talking with the principal, with the new teacher(s) each year along the way, with the district staff, etc. Pushing for expanded opportunities for kids who need them, higher ceilings, more differentiation, etc. The reality is, if a school doesn't want to go there, or if there aren't enough gifted kids to support it, no amount of pushing is going to work.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a great thread Melissa. Stirred up the pot and hopefully got a few clicks on the sexy Thai girls dating service ads on your blog. Sometimes it feels like this blog is the troll itself.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

From Anonymous,
"I think the ads are a function of your browsing history...I'm getting education related ads, or maybe some clothing retailer. Dating service ads? Umm..."

Yes, I've never seen the dating services on this blog. I'll try to tighten up what gets on.

I'm not stirring the pot - I'm trying to create discussion. And I'm not going to be namby-pamby on issues I carry deeply about and have deep knowledge about.

And Parent, you seem to come here often and yet, you seem so unhappy. There are a lot of other education blogs out there if you are.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm closing this thread so any comments after this one will be deleted.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stu said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.